W Connection scored an emphatic 4-2 win over Dominican Republic outfit Atlantico FC in their opening Concacaf Champions League (CCL) 2016-17 qualifying game on Wednesday night in a hot contest that saw three players sent off by St. Lucian referee Leo Clarke at the Ato Boldon Stadium in Couva, Trinidad.
Suriname’s Inter Moengotapoe are second on the four-time group – only by goal-difference – after registering a hard-fought 3-2 win over Guadeloupe’s Club Sportif Moulien in the first game of Wednesday’s double-header.
Moengotapoe had led 2-0 at the break after an own-goal credited to Cedric Vamur in the 26th minute and forward Romeo Kastiel scoring in the 31st minute. But the Suriname club sloppily allowed Moulien back in the game with goals through second half substitute Steve Bizasene on 47 minutes and Willis Francillonne in the 64th minute.
Luckily, for coach Jeroe Hesron’s side, Kastiel was able to find the winner to complete his double in stoppage-time by pouncing on a rebound after goalkeeper Kevin Ajax failed to hold an effort from former W Connection forward Stefano Rijssel.
Rijssel, a Suriname national team forward, along with Ives Vlijter, were both denied by the upright just before the break, in a half that should have had Moengotapoe with a handful of goals.
Connection too, were twice denied by the frame at the Couva venue. The Savonetta Boys captain Alvin Jones struck the upright four minutes into play with a 35-yard free-kick that bounced beyond goalkeeper Tim Pallaks. Then in the 14th minute Briel Thomas rattled the Atlantico crossbar from distance to signal his team’s intentions after defender Nelson Benitez had put the visitors 1-0 ahead by the seventh minute.
Benitez blast proved too much for Connection goalkeeper Julani Archibald after Yefri Reyes headed Wuiswell Isea’s free-kick into Benitez’ path.
Atlantico’s fiery start soon cooled and Connection levelled the scores 1-1 in the 32nd minute when midfielder Jomal Williams got his body to a Kurt Frederick cross to put the ball into the back of Pallak’s net.
But both sides were later reduced to 10 men when Connection’s Shahdon Winchester and Atlantico’s Mateo Zazo were shown direct red cards in the 52nd minute by referee Clarke, who consulted assistant referee Zachari Zeegelarr following an off-the-ball brawl incident involving both players.
Winchester and Zazo, along with Atlantico goalscorer Benitez, who was red carded for a dangerous tackle on Connection substitute Jabari Mitchell with seven minutes left, will miss the remainder of the group stage with automatic two-game suspensions.
“We can’t really dwell on that,” said Connection head coach Stuart Charles Fevrier over the loss of the Winchester for the remaining group games. “The Moengotapoe player punched Shahdon (Winchester) and he retaliated. I must say I am disappointed but I have to now concentrate on who I have [available] and make sure we are ready for our next game.”
Atlantico were back in front 2-1 on 65 minutes after substitute Kerbi Rodriguez recovered from a slip in the centre of the area to regain control of a Leinner Perez cross before firing past Archibald.
However Fevrier’s side were back on level terms with a 2-2 score three minutes later. Jomal Williams executed a delightful chip to beat Pallak after Andre Toussaint had evaded two in midfield before threading a pass into the area.
Ten minutes later, Connection took the lead for the first time before sealing the victory in stoppage-time. St. Lucia international Frederick, ending with three assists on the night, fed a pass to Charles inside the area and the Grenadian struck into an open net after getting around Pallak.
Atlantico’s defence were in shambles again when another Frederick cross in the first minute of stoppage-time allowed Charles to complete his double and Connection’s 4-2 win.
Commenting on Charles’ double, Fevrier said, “Jamal is a young player on his first professional contract. Today he did well, but he still has a long way to go. He wants to learn and has the right attitude. I think he will definitely improve.”
The Connection coach heaped praise on his players.
He said, “It was a really difficult game because we had to come from behind twice. I must give credit to my team for coming from behind and winning by two clear goals, convincingly in the end.
“Moengotapoe aren’t a bad team. They recently started a professional league and are already showing improvement.”
Fevrier, usually a cool figure on the bench in the domestic Digicel Pro League, paced the edge of the technical area for most of the second half on Wednesday night and one time found himself just inside the touchline.
“I had to be that extra player after Shahdon (Winchester) got sent off,” he explained. “The guys needed a lift and I felt I needed to be that extra player. It’s our first game and we had to win. It’s a short tournament—three games in five days—and I felt I needed to be out there urging and pushing the guys on. In the end it paid off.
“Our intention is to win the group. We play Moulien on Friday but we are aware that football is always on the day, no team are easy in modern football, so we have to be humble and come out again on Friday to do our job.”
Atlantico and Inter Moengoetapoe will meet from 5:30 pm on Friday at the Ato Boldon Stadium before W Connection take on Club Sportif Moulien from 7:45 pm.
Inter Moengotapoe 3 (Cedric Vamur Own Goal 26’, Romeo Kastiel 31’, 92’) vs Club Sportif Moulien 2 (Steve Bizasene 47’, Willis Francillonne 64’)
W Connection 4 (Jomal Williams 32’, 68’, Jamal Charles 78’, 90’+1) vs Atlantico FC 2 (Nelson Benitez 7’, Kerbi Rodriguez 65’)
W Connection: 18.Julani Archibald; 2.Kurt Frederick, 3.Gerard Williams, 5.Triston Hodge, 8.Briel Thomas, 9.Shahdon Winchester (Red Card), 10.Jomal Williams, 12.Dimitrie Apai (20.Jamal Charles 69th minute), 14.Andre Toussaint (24.Jabari Mitchell 80th minute), 16.Alvin Jones (Capt.), 25.Daneil Cyrus
Unused substitutes: 1.Terrence Lewis (GK), 4.Maurice Ford, 35.Keston Julien, 43.Malik St. Prix, 46.Anfernee Frederick, 26.Paolo De La Guardia Alvarez
Coach: Stuart Charles-Fevrier
Atlantico FC: 1.Tim Pallaks; 11.Adrian Salcedo de Jesus, 3.Nelson Benitez Areco (Red Card), 6.Yefri Reyes Gonzalez, 2.Eduin Munoz Rubio, 4.Mateo Zazo Ortiz (Red Card), 22.Wuiswell Isea Fernandez, 7.Bryan Jimenez Gonzalez (13.Jose Diaz 87th minute), 9.Jose Sanchez Mendez (10.Kerbi Rodriguez Pichardo 36th minute), 14.Leinner Perez Chirinos, 23.Cristian Casseres Caseres (Capt.)
Unused substitutes: 12.Nestor Nova Balbuena (GK), 20.Guillermo La Hoz Martinez
Coach: Lenin Bastidas
Referee: Leo Clarke (LCA)