Caledonia AIA are one foot inside a second consecutive appearance in the CONCACAF Champions’ League after edging Jamaican club Portmore United 1-0 at Hasely Crawford Stadium on Monday night.
Caledonia debutant Andre Toussaint provided the assist from a crossball and striker Jamal Gay was on alert in the area to hit past Portmore goalie Kemar Foster in the 27th minute for what turned out the early winner.
Monday’s contest was the first of a two-match play-off, with the second contest on Wednesday from 6pm at the Ato Boldon Stadium, and the overall winner will secure the third and final Caribbean qualifying spot to the 2013-2014 CONCACAF Champions’ League.
DIRECTV W Connection and Haiti’s Valencia SC are already through to the CCL having topped their respective qualifying groups.
While Caledonia, who debuted in the CCL last season, and Portmore United reached the play-off as the two second placed finishers out of the group stage.
Caledonia had an excellent breakthrough from winger Nathan Lewis who’s legs were too quick for Portmore defenders Rosario Harriot and Upston Edwards in the 10th minute, tried a fancy chip against Foster, but the Jamaican goalie got enough to the ball to tame the effort which was eventually cleared.
And a minute later Foster had to pull out an excellent save to put behind a Toussaint freekick, after he won the whistle of St. Lucian referee Leon Clarke above the area—the 31 year old Toussaint clearly showing his class and ability to create problems for opposing defenses, despite being out of competitive football for nearly six months.
Portmore had a good opening in the 16th minute but Caledonia goalie Glenroy Samuel kept out an effort by Paul Wilson off a Sue Lae Mc Calla. Wilson had another attempt a minute and a half later but guided it wide of goal.
But it was Caledonia, supported by two rhythm groups on the night, who landed the crucial item at the noisy stadium when Gay tucked in a Toussaint cross past Foster.
The Jamaicans responded with an ambitious effort from distance by Trevol Smith in the 36th minute, but he only won Portmore a couple claps as the effort flashed wide.
And four minutes later, teammate Bryan Bayliss struck overbar from distance, and again fired into the night’s sky from above the area just before the half time whistle.
Two minutes prior, Akim Armstrong shaved the Portmore side netting with a stinger from distance, but the Morvant-Laventille club had a gift of an opportunity six minutes after the break.
However Toussaint guided the rebound effort overbar, after goalkeeper Foster palmed away a Lewis strike.
And in the 55th minute Densill Theobald, who led the Lewis attack moments earlier, had a second bite on a cherry from a freekick and forced Foster into a low diving save.
Portmore clearly unable to contain the Caledonia midfield made up of Lewis, Theobald, Akim Armstrong and the surging runs of fullbacks Aubrey David and Kareem Joseph.
Joseph however, had to be replaced injured.
Meantime Portmore who had a couple nervous moments in the closing stages came closest to a second half item on the hour mark.
But Ma Calla’s header off a Trevol Smith’s cross was superbly pushed behind for a corner by Samuel.
CONCACAF Champions’ League qualifying
Portmore United 0—1 Caledonia AIA
Jamal Gay 27’
Portmore United—Kemar Foster, Adrian Reid (capt.), Rosario Harriot, Upston Edwards, Bryan Bayliss (Stephen Williams 73rd), Cleon Price (Adoah Nickle 67th), Andrew Vanzie, Trevol Smith, Paul Wilson (Andre Lewis 77th), Ewan Grandison, Sue Lae Mc Calla.
Unused Substitutes—Carlloyd Walters, Ryan Willington, Rickcardo Harriot, Damion Minns.
Caledonia AIA—Glenroy Samuel, Stephan David (capt.) Aubrey David, Nuru Abdullah Muhammad, Colin Nelson, Kareem Joseph (Miguel Alejandro Romeo 79th), Andre Toussaint (Vurlon Mills 74th), Akim Armstrong (Keyon Edwards 74th), Densill Theobald, Jamal Gay, Nathan Lewis.
Unused substitutes—Shemel Louison, Aaron Lester, Nical Stephens, Akeem Thomas.
Referee—Leon Clarke (St. Lucia).
Assistant Referee 1—Ike Innis (St. Kitts & Nevis).
Assistant Referee 2—Graeme Brown (St. Kitts & Nevis).
Fourth Official—Marco Brea Despaigne.
Caledonia look to clinch Champions League spot.
By Ian Prescott (Express).
Neal & Massy Caledonia AIA maneuvered themselves into a favourable position to clinch a spot in the 2013-2014 CONCACAF Champions League football series after winning the opening leg of a two-match playoff by a 1-0 margin over competitive Jamaican National Premier League champions Portmore United on Monday night at Hasely Crawford Stadium, Port of Spain.
A draw in tonight’s return match at the Ato Boldon Stadium (6 p.m.), Couva will be enough to put Caledonia through as the Caribbean’s third qualifier alongside group winners W Connection (T&T) and Valencia (Haiti). Monday’s first leg was a lively affair, which was ultimately settled in the 28th minute when lanky T&T national striker Jamal Gay headed Andre Toussaint’s cross in off the fingertips of former Jamaican national youth goalkeeper Kemar Foster.
The football was lively, as were the two rhythm sections vying for supremacy. There was a great atmosphere at the venue and the football produced on the field was competitive as well. Portmore are a real opponent, aggressive and dangerous. It was generally felt that Caledonia needed more than one goal going into tonight’s second leg. They will again have to be solid in all areas to advance.
“One nil up is a good position for us,” stated Jerry Moe, Caledonia’s head-coach. “But having seen the opponents, we can’t lift our feet off the pedal. If they (Portmore) were playing in the (TT) Pro League, they would be one of the top four teams.”
Caledonia dominated the first half and had the better chances, but seemed to tire in the second session when the Jamaicans had a long period of control. “Cali” stuck to their short-passing standard, but the Morvant-Laventille boys were forced to raise their tempo above the sometimes sedate pace of the local Pro League due to the aggression of the Jamaicans, who contested every pass.
Former Joe Public front man Toussaint proved a good addition to the Caledonia squad and should have added a second goal in the 51st, but turned the ball overbar after the Portmore ‘keeper blocked Gay’s initial shot. Later, Toussaint also had a brief chance when goalie Foster juggled Gay’s cross, but the striker touched the ball wide under pressure at the near post.
A burst of speed saw left midfielder Nathan Lewis bearing down on Portmore’s goal, but Foster was quickly out to block the shot. And Foster also barely kept the ball out after substitute Keyon Edwards got a weak connection to Lewis’ square ball in the final minutes. From free-kicks, both Caledonia right-defender Kareem Young and playmaker Densill Theobald also forced diving saves from the Portmore ‘keeper Foster.
“Last night we saw a compact (Portmore) and they didn’t allow us much room. They have some good athletic players and they had some chances, which they didn’t put away. We also had some scoring chances, apart from the goal, and in one instance I thought (Andre) Toussaint should have scored to double our advantage,” said Moe.
Portmore generally used the long ball to push the locals back in the first half. Portmore shot from any and every angle, particularly strikers Paul Wilson and Sue Lae Mc Calla. The duo deliberately focused on catching out Caledonia’s sometimes erratic goalie Glenroy Samuel, who is almost always off his goal-line. Samuel made an excellent block in the 17th minute to stop Wilson, who met a cross at the back post, and also got back quickly to push Mc Calla’s header over the bar after the Jamaican striker caught him marginally out of goal.
“It was a very hard game for us and we had to dig deep and thank God we got the result we wanted, “ stated Caledonia playmaker Theobald.
“Portmore were more aggressive than our weekly Pro League opponents, but we stuck to the task and hopefully today we (can) finish the job.”