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Defence Force celebrate winning the 2024 First Citizens Cup title after defeating AC Port of Spain 3-1 at the Hasely Crawford Stadium, Mucurapo on Wednesday, May 29th 2024.

“Don’t give up for one more day.”

That is what Defence Force player Isaiah Leacock was thinking ahead of Wednesday night’s First Citizens Cup Knockout final against his former team, Athletic Club of Port of Spain at the Hasely Crawford Stadium, Mucurapo.

At the end of it, he was celebrating his second hat-trick in as many matches as the Army/Coast Guard combination whipped the recently crowned league champions AC PoS 3-1 to successfully defend their KO title.

Leacock opened the scoring for Defence Force in the 22nd minute after AC PoS skipper Duane Muckette gave the ball away in midfield.

Muckette, trying to clear the ball, struck it straight to Shaquille Bertrand who dribbled down the left flank before finding Matthew Woo Ling who sent in a cross to the middle of the 18-yard box where Leacock directed the ball past AC PoS keeper Marvin Phillip to put his team 1-0 up.

Defence Force were on the attack again early in the second half, with Jelani Felix taking a free-kick from just outside the penalty area which Phillip held on to with ease.

But the AC PoS custodian later lost his composure when he brought down Woo Ling by the neck, after the player ran in front of him as he tried to advance the ball down the field.

The referee had no hesitation in showing Phillip a red card, forcing AC PoS to make a few changes, with Che Benny being subbed out to bring on substitute keeper Jacques Poon-Lewis.

But Poon-Lewis couldn’t save the resulting penalty, which Leacock struck straight down the middle and into the roof of the net in the 52 minute to double the lead.

Leacock finished off the scoring for his team in the 62nd, when he struck a left-footed bullet from outside the penalty box for which Poon-Lewis had no response.

AC PoS pulled a goal back in the 72nd minute after Jamal Charles was brought down by Jamali Garcia in the penalty box with captain Duane Muckette stepping up to make it 3-1.

But the league champions couldn’t get closer as Defence Force ended the local campaign on a high, having won all three of their encounters against their rivals this season.

“The feeling is amazing and against my former team, it really feels good,” Player-of-the-Match Leacock said after the win.

“The team that put me on the market is AC Port of Spain and I just transferred over to Army to get better playing time and stuff like that,” he added.

Meanwhile, Defence Force head coach Lloyd Andrews praised the performance of his team but said the season isn’t over just yet.

“Firstly, I want to thank the Lord for keeping us healthy and giving us this victory. I want to thank the men and the Chief of Defence Staff and his team and all the staff members,” Andrews stated.

He continued: “The gameplan was to crowd them out in the middle of the park and reduce their possession to play with the ball.”

Asked what the win meant to the team after they had failed in their quest to retain the league crown, Andrews said: “We wanted to be the first to do the double”.

Asked to reflect on the season, he added: “We are still in the season because we have to play in Curacao shortly, so we want continue our preparation so when we go out there we can give a good account of ourselves for Trinidad and Tobago.”

“We just want to prepare with what we have now and go and bring glory back to Trinidad and Tobago,” he said.

For AC PoS, it was a disappointing end to the local season but technical secretary at the club, Gilbert Bateau said they will keep working.

“(It was) disappointing yes,” he said after the loss.

“We didn’t stick to the plan but credit to Defence Force because they came out and showed the hunger and that was probably the difference. We started to do it maybe too late in the game,” Bateau continued.

“That was uncharacteristic because the atmosphere in the camp during the week was good enough to prepare properly for the game but sometimes it doesn’t always go your way.

“I will say AC Port of Spain is a young team and it is not always you get to be at this level consecutively. We’ll just keep working,” he added.

SOURCE: T&T Express