Central FC couldn’t ask for more after Friday’s1-0 win over Defence Force in their Digicel Pro League top-of-the-table clash ahead of next week’s Concacaf Champions League qualifiers in Jamaica.
Joseph fired past a wall of Defence Force shirts from the edge of the area. His left-footed strike had too much sting for goalkeeper Sheldon Clarke who got his arms to the ball but couldn’t stop it from entering the back of his far netting.
It was the Trinidad and Tobago international forward’s seventh consecutive scoring outing for the “Couva Sharks”, taking his league tally to 13 goals, while his side boasts an 7-game winning streak and undefeated in their last 13 games.
Central, however, took precautionary measure in replacing Joseph – who picked up a knock in the 24th minute – at the break. Central lost their strength in attack but Defence Force, despite a gritty effort to find a way back, failed to find the equalising goal.
The win ensured Central (46 points) stretch their DPL lead seven points clear of second-positioned Defence Force and ten points ahead of third-positioned W Connection, who had to come from behind to earn a 2-2 draw with eight-positioned Morvant Caledonia United in the first game of Friday’s double-header at the Couva venue.
It is the sort of “breathing space” Central interim coach Dale Saunders desired before his team jets off for Jamaica on Tuesday to begin defence of the Caribbean Club Championship against Cayman Islands team Scholars International SC on March 11 and hosts Montego Bay United on March 13 in Group 3 at the Montego Bay Sporting Complex.
Only the group winners advances into the semi-final round on April 29 in which W Connection already occupies a spot having topped Group 1 in Trinidad a week ago. The two semi-final winners and the third place winners will occupy the three Caribbean berths at the 2016/17 Concacaf Champions League. The final of the Caribbean Club Championship will be contested on May 1.
Connection, without a number of players including attacking midfielders Jomal Williams and Andre Toussaint and defensive midfielder Briel Thomas who impressed during the Caribbean Club Championship group stage, struggled to get into stride early against Caledonia on Friday.
Guyana duo Kareem Knights and Pernell Schultz handed Caledonia on a 2-0 cushion before the break.
Teenager Knights volleyed past goalkeeper Julani Archibald off an Antonio Joseph cross on 13 minutes for his first ever Caledonia goal.
Schultz later converted from the penalty spot in the 44th minute after his earlier strike crashed off the arm of Connection defensive midfielder Gerard Williams at the edge of the area. Referee Keilon Bacchus pointed to the spot after consulting his assistant and Connection were behind by two goals heading into the break.
However Stuart Charles-Fevrier’s men stormed back in the second half to level the scores 2-2 and could have produced a win, had it not been for the heroics of former Connection goalie Marvin Phillip between the Caledonia uprights.
Phillip had produced two excellent saves, denying Shahdon Winchester and Kurt Frederick early in the second half, but there was little the Trinidad and Tobago international could do when Winchester found the far bottom corner getting beyond defender Leslie Russell.
Winchester turned provider in the 62nd-minute slipping a pass behind Russell inside the area to pick out an oncoming Dimitrie Apai and the Suriname international was clinical to beat a hapless Phillip.
Phillip had the last say, denying the Apai and Winchester further goals in the 68th-minute and stoppage-time, respectively.
Morvant Caledonia United 2 (Kareem Knights 13’, Pernell Schultz 44’ penalty) vs W Connection 2 (Shahdon Winchester 55’, Dimitrie Apai 62'), at Ato Boldon Stadium;
Central FC 1 (Marcus Joseph 13’) vs Defence Force 0, at Ato Boldon Stadium.
Morvant Caledonia United: 1.Marvin Phillip; 3.Ranaldo Bailey, 4.Ordell Flemming (15.Otev Lawrence 84th minute), 5.Maestro Mensah (2.Robert Primus 46th minute), 7.Stephan David (Capt) (11.Abdallah Phillips 54th minute), 16.Antonio Joseph, 17.Akim Armstrong, 22.Jameel Neptune, 28.Pernell Schultz, 29.Kareem Knights, 18.Leslie Russell
Unused substitutes: 8.Anthony Charles, 13.Kyle Bartholomew, 20.Jamaal Harvey, 27.Triffon Browne
Coach: Jerry Moe
W Connection: 18.Julani Archibald; 2.Kurt Frederick, 3.Gerard Williams, 5.Triston Hodge (4.Maurice Ford 46th minute), 9.Shahdon Winchester, 12.Dimitrie Apai, 13.Hughtun Hector, 16.Alvin Jones (Capt.), 20.Jamal Charles (43.Malik St. Prix 46th minute), 25.Daneil Cyrus, 32.Isaiah Hudson (26.Paolo De La Guardia Alvarez 72nd minute)
Unused substitutes: 27.Jelani Peters, 46.Anfernee Frederick, 1.Terrence Lewis (GK) 34.Jabari Mitchell
Coach: Stuart Charles Fevrier
Match Referee: Keilon Bacchus
Central FC: 21.Jan Michael Williams; 4.Andre Ettienne, 7.Jason Marcano, 8.Sean De Silva, 12.Jamal Jack, 15.Kaydion Gabriel, 19.Nathaniel Garcia, 22.Leston Paul (Capt.), 24.Kevon Villaroel, 25.Elijah Manners (14.Nicholas Dillon 80th minute), 99.Marcus Joseph (2.Elton John 46th minute)
Unused substitutes: 3.Keion Goodridge, 9.Kadeem Corbin, 26.Jem Gordon, 30.Akel Clarke (GK), 33.Samuel Delice
Coach: Dale Saunders
Defence Force: 25.Sheldon Clarke; 3.Jamali Garcia, 4.Dave Long 6.Rodell Elcock, 8.Curtis Gonzales, 9.Devorn Jorsling (26.Richard Roy 67th minute), 10.Hashim Arcia, 17.Ross Russell Jr. (30.Kishun Seecharan 63rd minute), 21.Aklie Edwards, 23.Kerry Joseph (16.Kellon Serette 78th minute), 99.Jerwyn Balthazar (Capt.)
Unused substitutes: 1.Andre Marchan (GK), 2.Glynn Franklyn, 12.Jemel Sebro, 18.Sean Narcis
Coach: Marvin Gordon
Match Referee: Callum Marshall