Ataulla Guerra converted a second half penalty, before teammate Jamal Jack was sent off, as Central FC rallied from a goal down to hold W Connection to a 1-1 draw in the latest Couva Clasico.
Defence Force are at the summit with 28 points, while defending champions Central FC and last season’s runners-up W Connection, occupying second and third, are 25 and 23 points, respectively.
Former Central FC forward Dwight Quintero fired Connection ahead eight minutes before the break on Sunday at the Ato Boldon Stadium.
The 22-year-old Quintero side-footed a Kurt Frederick cross into goalkeeper Jan-Michael Williams’ far netting for only his 4th goal of the season in all competitions.
But on 64 minutes, Guerra, who flashed an effort inches overbar in the 15th minute, equalised from the spot with a clinical strike past W Connection second choice goalkeeper Terrence Lewis for his 7th goal in all domestic competitions this season.
Lewis started between the uprights in absence of regular goalie Julani Archibald. Archibald, St. Kitts/Nevis national team goalkeeper, due to a calve injury, joined forward Shahdon Winchester (hip) and winger Neil Benjamin Jr. (hamstring) on the injury list earlier this week.
Referee Callum Marshall awarded Central the kick from the spot after striker Marcus Joseph was brought down in the box by defender Gerard Williams.
“I’m not sure if the penalty was a good one, but I will review it on video,” said W Connection technical director/head coach Stuart Charles-Fevrier after the game.
Charles-Fevrier, though, conceded that his side made too many mistakes in possession, which Central dominated. But believes his side should have won the game.
“I thought we could have played better,” added the Connection coach, who led the Savonetta Boys to the First Citizens Cup (defeating Central in the final) and Toyota Classic (defeating Central in the semi-final round) this season.
“Although Central had more possession, they never really created any [scoring] chance.
“It was a game I felt we could have done better in our overall performance. We didn’t balance the game enough and made too many simple mistakes in possession. And because of that our attacks were infrequent. But all in all it’s a point we will have to accept and move on.”
Central’s Jack, who was booked six minutes before the break for a foul, received his second yellow card, followed by the subsequent red card, for a sliding tackle on Gerard Williams in an attempt to win the ball some 30 yards from the Connection goal on 73 minutes.
Connection with the numerical advantage got closest to a late winner when attacking midfielder Jomal Williams curled an attempt a whisker wide of the far upper corner after slipping past defender Akeem Benjamin in the area.
Goalkeeper Williams, who made a stop four minutes before the break to deny Frederick, could have done little had Jomal calibrated his strike a few inches left.
In the end, 1-1 it stood, the same as it ended when both teams met in Round One of the DPL last November.
“Although we wanted the win… we will take the draw,” said Central FC interim coach Dale Saunders at the end of his first Couva Clasico in charge.
Saunders, who now stands unbeaten after six games since taking occupying the position in December, continued, “We dominated possession but didn’t take advantage of it. Connection got a well-taken goal but we changed things in the second half and got the [equalising] goal and I thought we could have gotten another goal. But we had a player sent off.
“Considering having a player sent off and Connection not being easy opponents, we accept the result.”
On the opposite end of the league table, Morvant Caledonia United moved off the bottom with a 2-1 win over St. Ann’s Rangers on Sunday at the Larry Gomes Stadium.
A first half brace by Sheldon Holder, netting in the 14th and 33rd minutes, did the trick for Caledonia although Rangers pulled a goal back through Kadeem Hutchinson on 35 minutes.
Rangers, now at the bottom with 9 points, will next face W Connection from 3:30 p.m. at the Larry Gomes Stadium on Wednesday.
Also on Wednesday, Caledonia, with 10 points in ninth, will meet fourth positioned North East Stars (22 points) from 6 p.m. at the Ato Boldon Stadium, followed by Central FC versus sixth positioned San Juan Jabloteh from 8 p.m. at the Couva venue.
St. Ann’s Rangers 1 (Kadeem Hutchinson 35’) vs Morvant Caledonia United 2 (Sheldon Holder 14’, 33’)
Central FC 1 (Ataulla Guerra 64’ penalty) vs W Connection 1 (Dwight Quintero 38’)
Central FC: 21.Jan-Michael Williams (Capt.); 4.Andre Ettienne, 5.Akeem Benjamin, 24.Kevon Villaroel, 9.Kadeem Corbin (19.Nathaniel Garcia 56th minute), 11.Darren Mitchell, 12.Jamal Jack, 15.Kaydion Gabriel, 25.Elijah Manners (7.Jason Marcano 50th minute), 45.Ataulla Guerra, 99.Marcus Joseph
Unused substitutes: 30.Akel Clarke (GK), 10.Marvin Oliver, 14.Nicholas Dillon, 22.Leston Paul, 26.Jem Gordon
Coach: Dale Saunders
W Connection: 1.Terrence Lewis; 2.Kurt Frederick, 3.Gerard Williams, 5.Triston Hodge, 21.Shannon Gomez, 10.Jomal Williams, 16.Alvin Jones (Capt.), 12.Dimitrie Apai (32.Isaiah Hudson 74th minute), 23.Kevon Goddard (8.Briel Thomas 61st minute), 14.Andre Toussaint (17.Aikim Andrews 61st minute), 19.Dwight Quintero
Unused substitutes: 4.Maurice Ford, 22.Aquelius Sylvester (GK), 46.Anfernee Frederick, 34.Jabari Mitchell
Coach: Stuart Charles-Fevrier
Match Referee: Callum Marshall