A forthright after losing the top spot to North East Stars, W Connection are back at the top of the Trinidad and Tobago Pro League 2017 standings but tied on 17 points with overnight leaders Club Sando.
Neil Benjamin Jr. scored three times on Saturday, to lead this season’s scorers’ list with 7 goals, as Connection hammered cellar-placed MIC-IT St. Ann's Rangers 5-1—a result that put coach Stuart Charles-Fevrier's side ahead of Sando albeit only on 'Goals For' (18-15).
The top, though, could shuffle again by next Friday when North East Stars, who tilted Connection for the lead on July 29, take on three-time defending champions Central FC in a highly anticipated rescheduled fixture on Friday 18 August from 8pm at the Arima Velodrome.
For now, however, in descending order, Connection, Sando and North East Stars (the latter with 16 points and two games in hand) occupy top three, while San Juan Jabloteh (10 points) and Central (9 points), in fourth and fifth respectively with three games in hand, will face each other on Tuesday from 6pm at Barataria Oval.
Benjamin fired Connection ahead in the 28th minute after powering into the right of the box at the St. Augustine Secondary School Ground, only to see Rangers level it at 1-1 a minute later through Xae Pierre De Fou, whose shot ricocheted off the post and two defenders before finding the back of goalkeeper Julani Archibald's net.
Connection argued with referee Marlon Peruse that right full-back Alvin Jones shot had found a hole in the upper netting three minutes from the half, but video relay confirmed the official’s decision that the ball flew over bar with goalkeeper Biggette making an excellent save with his legs.
Biggette’s was exposed again three minutes into the second half but Marcus Joseph, free inside the box, headed wide of the upright off a right side Benjamin cross.
But by the time Trinidad and Tobago Under-20 attacker Isaiah Hudson celebrated his first ever top-flight Connection goal in the 61st minute, the visitors were in full control and later completed their fifth win of the season after dropping points in the last three outings.
Hudson beat Biggette with a low drive from inside the left of the area to give Connection a 2-1 lead.
Benjamin then made it 3-1 in the 70th minute with a half volley past Biggette for his second on the afternoon after controlling substitute Jameel Antoine’s feed into the area.
Rangers defence were no match again in the 80th minute when their former player Antoine started and completed an attack, finding the ceiling of Biggette’s net for his first Connection goal to put his side in a commanding 4-1 score.
Ironically Antoine’s previous goal was for Rangers in a 3-3 draw with Club Sando on February 3.
Two minutes later another Connection substitute Daniel Diaz, who assisted in Antoine's goal, hit wide with the goal at his mercy.
But the diminutive attacker redeemed himself with a strong run into the Rangers area to set up Benjamin for a simple tap in—the latter completing his hat-trick six minutes from time and Connection finishing 5-1 winners.
Rangers will look to rebound against Morvant Caledonia United on Saturday 19 August from 4pm when they return to the St. Augustine Secondary School Ground in a rescheduled Round One fixture.
St. Ann's Rangers 1 (Xae Pierre De Fou 29') vs W Connection 5 (Neil Benjamin Jr. 28', 70', 84', Isaiah Hudson 61', Jameel Antoine 80'), at St. Augustine Secondary School Ground.
St. Ann’s Rangers: 22.Christoher Biggette (GK), 3.Kareem Eastman, 4.Shane Sandy (Capt.), 6.Omari Lezama, 14.Xae Pierre De Fou (20.Aaquil Selby 59th minute), 15.Keshawn Hutchinson, 17.Hakim Baird, 19.Anslem Jackson, 21.Micah Lansiquot, 23.Kathon St. Hillare, 33.Osaze Springer (32.Marvin Lee 78th minute).
Unused substitutes: 1.Cleon John (GK), 10.Josh Toussaint, 11.Kazim Donald, 12.Rennie Britto.
Coach: Anthony Streete
W Connection: 18.Julani Archibald (GK), 3.Gerard Williams, 4.Maurice Ford, 7.Neil Benjamin Jr., 10.Dimitri Apai, 13.Hughtun Hector (Capt.), 16.Alvin Jones, 19.Briel Thomas (24.Jameel Antoine 45th minute), 30.Shaquille John (26.Isaiah Garcia 46th minute), 32.Isaiah Hudson (20.Daniel Diaz 74th minute), 99.Marcus Joseph.
Unused substitutes: 1.Terrence Lewis (GK), 6.Caleb Gasper, 12.Jevaughn Humphrey, 21.Ronell Paul.
Coach: Stuart Charles-Fevrier
Referee: Marlon Peruse