Russell Alfred grabbed the spotlight with his first top-flight hat-trick on Saturday as Central FC romped to an impressive 7-1 comeback win over Terminix St. Ann’s Rangers in the first game of a double-header at the Ato Boldon Stadium in Couva.
Central, though, remained fourth on the 2018 league standings, tied on 13 points with third-positioned Defence Force FC—the side coach Stern John’s Couva Sharks defeated in the First Citizens Cup 2018 final last July via the penalty spot and the side they must face at the Couva venue on Tuesday from 8pm after W Connection and San Juan Jabloteh meet each other in a top-of-the-table tie from 6pm.
Elsewhere on Saturday, leaders W Connection (19 points) widened the gap at the top, five points clear of second-positioned San Juan Jabloteh (14 points), after defeating hosts Point Fortin Civic 3-1 at Mahaica Oval.
Leading Golden Boot contender Marcus Joseph (9 league goals and 16 in all competitions) netted twice (41 & 64) for the Savonetta Boys, separated by the half and a second half strike from teammate Jomal Williams (61), before Akeem Redhead (94) pulled back a consolation item for the winless hosts deep in stoppage time.
Earlier in Couva, Kerry Baptiste stunned his former employers, Central, after just seven minutes when he put a Keyon “Bobo” Edwards’ cross past goalkeeper Marvin Phillip for his 153rd career league goal in the Pro League. Baptiste is only second to Defence Force veteran talisman Devorn Jorsling (162) on the all-time Pro League scorers’ list.
But Central unleashed fury in the second half with forward Alfred ending with a hat-trick to his name, Jameel “Shooter” Neptune netting an uninterrupted brace, and Akim Armstrong the go-ahead goal after Duane Muckette levelled the Couva Sharks from the penalty spot.
Rangers, boasting the likes of former Central players Anthony Charles and Baptiste signed during the August transfer window, and 34-year-old veteran attacking midfielder Edwards, who has come out of retirement to complete a full circle in returning to the club after stints at Morvant Caledonia United, San Juan Jabloteh and Club Sando, held their narrow 1-0 lead into the break.
Muckette, however, turned the game on its head when he converted from the spot with a crisp strike past Rangers goalie Jabari St. Hillaire in the 58th minute to put the scores at 1-1 after referee Keilon Bacchus pointed to the spot. Bacchus was left with little choice after both Neptune and Armstrong were upended in the box in attempts to capitalise on a rebound following a shot from distance from Alfred which cannoned off the bar.
Rangers, coached by Dave “Hog Head” Quamina, said goodbye to their lead and their resilience too.
Armstrong then put Central in front 2-1 three minutes later (61) when he swooped into the six-yard area to burry a spill by St. Hillare, who had failed to foil a low cross from the right by Muckette.
Alfred, who ironically celebrated his first top-flight goal in a 2-0 First Citizens Cup group stage win for Club Sando against Rangers last June, made it 3-1 by the 63rd minute for his new employers after combining with Armstrong at the top of the box before beating a hapless St. Hillaire.
Alfred completed his hat-trick and the 7-1 victory with a quick-fire double in the 82nd and 83rd minutes to put his league tally at 4 goals since joining Central last month. The powerfully built forward first turned substitute Rhondel Gibson’s cross past St. Hillaire then sent a screamer from distance to bulge the onion bag once more, all after Neptune had celebrated his first on the night with a 67th-minute grounder from distance to find the far bottom corner of the Rangers’ net and completed his double on 78 minutes from inside the area.
The fashionable Central win included 2006 World Cup midfielder Densill Theobald back into the starting line-up after months through injury and the return of former T&T Youth World Cup captain Leston Paul, who switched to North East Stars last season before moving to El Salvador for a stint with Pasaquina.
In the second game of the Couva double-header, North East Stars also messed with a hornet’s nest when Allister Bernard fired the Zoran Vranes-coached side in front against Police FC after 28 seconds – the fastest goal of the season – with a right-footer past goalkeeper Adrian Foncette.
Police hit back with a brilliant double and an assist from star striker Kareem Freitas to defeat the league holders 3-1 to move up a spot into fifth with 12 points while North East Stars remains anchored at the bottom without a win after six outings.
Freitas levelled Police from distance in the 15th minute then got to his double after 27 minutes off a short Christon Thomas feed to put the Lawmen in front by beating goalkeeper Glenroy Samuel again to put his league tally at 8 goals this term, one shy of leading frontman Marcus Joseph.
Freitas later turned provider in the 66th minute with a delightful chip in the penalty area to find substitute Kareem Perry who controlled off his chest before hitting past Samuel to put the match out of North East Stars’ reach.
Police will next host Morvant Caledonia on Tuesday after Rangers meet Club Sando in a double-header at Hasely Crawford Stadium, while North East Stars, minus defender Lashawn Roberts who was red carded in stoppage time after bring down Police substitute Micah Lewis outside the area, will visit Point Fortin Civic at Mahaica Oval.
Results - Round 1 Match Day 7
St. Ann’s Rangers 1 (Kerry Baptiste 7’) vs Central FC 7 (Duane Muckette 58’ pen., Akim Armstrong 61’, Russell Alfred 63’, 82’, 83’, Jameel Neptune 67’, 78’) at Ato Boldon Stadium;
Police FC 3 (Kareem Freitas 15’, 27’, Kareem Perry 66’) vs North East Stars 1 (Allister Bernard 1’), at Ato Boldon Stadium;
Point Fortin Civic 1 (Akeem Redhead 90’+4) vs W Connection 3 (Marcus Joseph 41’, 64’, Jomal Williams 61’), at Mahaica Oval.
St. Ann’s Rangers: 22.Jabari St. Hillaire (GK); 54.Fedric Commissiong, 56.Taje Commissiong, 58.Cedric Commissiong, 61.Dejon Waldropt (78.Xae-Pierre Defou 69th minute), 64.Dominic Douglas, 66.Kerry Baptiste (Capt.), 67.Anthony Charles, 69.Keyon Edwards, 74.Deyshawn Edwards (65.Jalino O’Rosco 45th minute), 79.Rondell Austin (60.Tyrese Williams 82nd minute).
Unused substitutes: 4.Lukeman Brooks, 53.Chadley David, 55.Alexis Blackwell, 72.Anthony Kallicharan.
Coach: Dave ‘Hog Head’ Quamina
Central FC: 1.Marvin Phillip (GK); 3.Ewan Grandison, 8.Akim Armstrong (13.Rhondel Gibson 76th minute), 10.Leston Paul (5.Dwight Pope 76th minute), 12.Taryk Sampson, 15.Kaydion Gabriel, 18.Densill Theobald (Capt.) (7.Hakim Baird 79th minute), 19.Jared London, 22.Jameel Neptune, 24.Duane Muckette, 29.Russell Alfred.
Unused substitutes: 30.Zane Coker (GK); 9.Braxton Gibbs, 17.Ronaldo Alexander, 23.Andell Brown.
Coach: Stern John
Referee: Keilon Bacchus
Police FC: 18.Adrian Foncette (GK) (Capt.); 3.Ryan O’Neil, 5.Kenaz Williams, 8.Kurdell Brathwaite, 9.Jameel Perry (7.Kareem Perry 51st minute), 10.Kareem Freitas,16.Brendon Creed, 19.Christon Thomas, 21.Todd Ryan (13.Dillon Kirton 77th minute), 23.Shakuile Williams (11.Micah Lewis 58th minute), 29.Clevon Mc Fee.
Unused substitutes: 22.Theon Browne (GK); 4.Kadeem Boyce, 12.Nequan Caruth, 33.Kemrom Purcell.
Coach: Richard Hood
North East Stars: 1.Glenroy Samuel (GK); 2.Jabari Brathwaite, 7.Hayden Tinto, 8.Saleem Henry, 11.Kyle Bartholomew, 13.Jankeon Alexander, 14.Keithen Carter (33.Terrell Roberts 74th minute), 15.Lashawn Roberts, 18.Josiah Daniel (20.Dareem Daniel 69th minute), 23.Sherwyn Williams (39.Bret D’Abreau 86th minute), 22.Allister Bernard.
Unused substitutes: 21.Javon Sample (GK).
Coach: Zoran Vranes
Referee: Cecile Hinds
Upcoming Fixtures - Round 1 Match Day 8
(Tuesday 18 September)
Terminix St. Ann’s Rangers vs Club Sando, 6pm at Hasely Crawford Stadium;
Police FC vs Morvant Caledonia United, 8pm at Hasely Crawford Stadium;
W Connection vs San Juan Jabloteh, 6pm at Ato Boldon Stadium;
Defence Force FC vs Central FC, 8pm at Ato Boldon Stadium;
Point Fortin Civic vs North East Stars, 7pm at Mahaica Oval.