CHAMPIONS Central FC remained the only unbeaten team in the Digicel Pro League, but they dropped points for just the second time this season when held to a tough 1-1 draw by Club Sando on Friday night, at Ato Boldon stadium in Couva.
Central FC fielded its strongest side, including Sean De Silva, goalkeeper Jan-Michael Williams, and Nathaniel Garcia, all currently called to national duty — a point of a contention between new T&T national coach Belgium Tom Saintfiet and Central FC chairman Brent Sancho. Central FC have restricted access of their players to the national team until December 23.
Meanwhile, Directv W Connection coach Stuart Charles Fevrier stuck to his regular rule of leaving out players called to national teams and omitted regular starters Hughton Hector, Daneil Cyrus, Aikem Andrews and Maurice Forde, all players called to the senior men’s national team for a pair of upcoming internationals against Nicaragua.
Regardless, second placed Directv W Connection cut Central FC’s lead atop the Digicel Pro League to four points after they beat Police FC 3-1. Playing 2014 national Under-20’s Jabari Mitchell, Kevon Goddard, Jesus Perez and 16-year-old Isaiah Hudson alongside four foreign-based players, W Connection got an opening goal from Dimitrie Apai, the very in-form Surinamese striker, who scored from close up on the second attempt, on the half-hour mark.
Mitchell tapped in a square pass from substitute Neil Benjamin Jr., for a 2-0 score in the 60th minute, and another form player, Shackiel Henry, added a superb chip for 3-0 in the 66th minute. Kareem Freitas put a powerful downward header onto a a free-kick, as Police pulled one back in the 73rd minute.
At full strength or not, Central FC were well-tested in the opening match by Club Sando. The Caribbean champions had stolen their first round meeting with an injury time winner for a 2-1 result when they met Club Sando at Mahaica Oval earlier in the season, but they were lucky not to lose in similar fashion in Couva.
Shaquille Holder almost won it for Club Sando as the fourth minute of added-on time came up. Sent clear deep by a long punt, Holder had two Central defenders nipping hard on his heels but still managed a hard shot from outside the penalty area; the ball powerfully bouncing off the chest of Central FC goalkeeper Jan-Michael Williams.
Central FC dominated the first 45 minutes against tough Club Sando, but had only a one-goal reward. Sean De Silva put “The Sharks” ahead in just the 6th minute, and had a chance for a second goal near the half-hour mark. Jason Marcano’s straight pass put De Silva clear but he hesitated too long and the shot was blocked.
There were other chances for Central FC. Former English Premiership striker Kenwyne Jones has looked a hard-working, rejuvenated footballer these days and only just failed to touch in a pass across the goal face, while midfielder Nathaniel Garcia simply wasted a clear chance, winning the ball inside the penalty area but handing off the responsibility as the first half closed.
Club Sando played mainly on the counter-attack, with rugged Akeem Roach alone up front and having few striking opportunities. Club Sando had keeper Stephan Berkley to thank for staying in the match early in the second half, making three good saves. He had to be sharp off his line to smother a shot from the left-footed substitute Kishun Seecharan in the 60th minute, then dropped low to stop both De Silva’s long-range shot and a low, close-up Leston Paul effort.
Jamaican Keith Simpson’s left-footer to the corner then left Central goalie Williams rooted, as it sunk inside the near post to level the match at 1-1 in the 67th minute, following a well-worked move that began with Roach’s never-say-die attitude and also involved touches from several other Club Sando players.
DIGICEL PRO LEAGUE RESULTS:
CENTRAL FC 1 (Sean De Silva 6’) CLUB SANDO 1 (Keithy Simpson 67’)
W CONNECTION 3 (Dimitrie Apai 53, Jabari Mitchell 60’, Shackiel Henry 66’) Police 1 (Kareem Freitas 78’)
3.30 p.m. — Morvant Caledonia United vs St Ann’s Rangers, Manny Ramjohn Stadium
4 p.m. — Ma Pau Stars vs Point Fortin Civic, Ato Boldon Stadium
6 p.m. — Defence Force vs San Juan Jabloteh, Ato Boldon Stadium