Central FC are two wins away from lifting a third consecutive Digicel Pro League crown after Tuesday night’s 2-1 come-from-behind win over Defence Force in a rescheduled fixture.
Ten-man Central needed a second-half own goal and a late Jason Marcano penalty to overcome a tough bunch in the sixth-positioned Defence Force.
Tenacity alone didn’t suffice. Had it not been for two crucial mistakes by Defence Force centre-back, Rodell Elcock, the headline could have, instead, favoured the Couva Sharks’ bitter town rivals, W Connection.
Central had trailed leaders Connection by two points before kick-off and looked to have surrendered it all after Hashim Arcia had given Defence Force the lead on 10 minutes and Couva Sharks’ winger Rundell Winchester seeing red just three minutes into the second half for dissent.
Arcia, for his eight league goal this term, had pounced on a mistake in the area by defender Keion Goodridge and rounded a hapless goalkeeper Jan-Michael Williams to hit into the exposed net under a late challenge from Trinidad and Tobago 2001 Under-17 World Cup and former MLS defender Julius James.
Central avoided another when Sean De Silva cleared Aklie Edwards’ effort on the half-hour mark and less than a minute later Elcock struck wide of the far upright as Defence Force looked to increase the advantage.
But Central, who also saw a Keston George’s attempt cleared off the line by Curtis Gonzales minutes inside the second half, were back on level terms when Elcock’s powerful header--in an attempt to clear substitute Kishun Seecharan’s dangerous corner--hit the underside of goalkeeper Sheldon Clarke’s bar and entered the back of the Defence Force net in the 66th-minute.
It turned out a masterstroke by the Central coaching staff, which includes head coach Dale Saunders and technical coach Stern John, to toss in the former Defence Force winger two minutes earlier at the expense of De Silva.
Meanwhile, it was unfortunate for Clarke, who had kept his side in front with brilliant saves to deny Marcano and Mickaeel Jem Gordon, separated by the half.
Clarke also did well to keep out a point-blank effort by Marcano in the 77th-minute before Darren Mitchell spilled the rebound wide with the goal at his mercy.
However ten minutes later Mitchell, the Central captain, was brought down inside the area by Elcock, forcing referee Cecile Hinds to point to the spot. Marcano stepped up and wrong-side Clarke and clinch the Central winner.
“It’s always great when you can lead your team and get the points,” Mitchell told ttproleague.com after the game. “We started shaky and let in a soft goal. But at the break the coach reminded us that we are a champion team and that we needed to go out and get the victory.
“We knew we needed to win from tonight because of the trouble we were in [based on the points]. It was all about fighting for the victory and we got the three points. It was a bit tough playing with a man less but we dug deep as a team.”
The result returned Central to the top of the 2016-17 standings after two weeks with 41 points, trading places with Connection (40 points), while San Juan Jabloteh (29 points) and Ma Pau Stars (25 points), in third and fourth respectively, are left in pursuit of a respectable third-place finish.
Connection returns to action against Jabloteh on Friday and will look to keep alive their shot at the title while keeping the pressure on Central, before ending their league campaign against Ma Pau Stars.
Central, meanwhile, must next face the troublesome St. Ann’s Rangers on Saturday before taking on Jabloteh in their final league. (See upcoming fixtures and standings below)
Digicel Pro League 2016-17
Rescheduled Round Two Match Day Four result
(Tuesday 24 January 2017)
Defence Force 1 (Hashim Arcia 10’) vs Central FC 2 (Rodell Elcock 66’ Own Goal, Jason Marcano 88’ penalty), at Ato Boldon Stadium.
Upcoming Round Two Match Day Eight fixtures
Friday 27 January 2017
Ato Boldon Stadium
Club Sando vs Point Fortin Civic—6pm
W Connection vs San Juan Jabloteh—8pm
(Saturday 28 January 2017)
Larry Gomes Stadium
St. Ann's Rangers vs Central FC—3:30pm
Mannie Ramjohn Stadium
Police FC vs Defence Force—3:30pm
(Sunday 29 January 2017)
Larry Gomes Stadium
Morvant vs Ma Pau Stars—3:30pm
Teams at the Ato Boldon Stadium on Tuesday
Defence Force: 25.Sheldon Clarke (GK), 3.Jamali Garcia (39.Akil Morris 52nd minute), 6.Rodell Elcock, 8.Christopher Durity, 9.Devorn Jorsling, 10.Hashim Arcia (7.Jamille Boatswain 84th minute), 17.Curtis Gonzales, 21.Aklie Edwards, 23.Kerry Joseph (14,Darryl Trim 75th minute), 26.Justin Garcia (Yellow Card), 99.Jerwyn Balthazar (Capt.).
Unused substitutes: 19.Thurlani George, 22.Anthony Charles, 32.Jameel Cooper, 37.Cassim Kellar.
Coach: Marvin Gordon
Central FC: 21.Jan-Michael Williams (GK), 3.Keion Goodridge, 5.Keston George, 6.Leston Paul, 7.Jason Marcano, 8.Sean De Silvia (12.Kishun Seecharan 64th minute), 11.Darren Mitchell (Capt.), 24.Kevon Villaroel, 26.Mickaeel Jem Gordon, 33.Julius James, 77.Rundell Winchester (Red Card).
Unused substitutes: 30.Akel Clarke (GK), 10.Keron Cummings, 15.Kaydion Gabriel, 18.Rhondel Gibson, 28.Jules Lee, 45.Tyrik John.
Coach: Dale Saunders
Referee: Cecile Hinds
Assistant Referee 1: Caleb Wales
Assistant Referee 2: Johann Corneille
Fourth Official: Dennis Changiah