Gerald Meloney got the decisive goal as Cunupia FC battled past Queen's Park Cricket Club (QPCC) for a 2-1 win in the T&T Super League Cup final at the Arima Municipal Stadium on Sunday night.
Going into the match as underdogs due to the suspension of the Super League’s top-scorer Kevon "Showtime" Woodley, Cunupia showed it was up for the task against the Parkites and took the lead in the 20th minute through Michael Darko from the penalty spot.
The Parkites drew level also from the penalty spot via their own top striker Devon Modeste in the 34th to set up an interesting second half.
In the end, Meloney’s 61st-minute goal secured the crown for Cunupia and a first win in three attempts against its opponent this season.
For the Parkites, it was the second time this season they had to settle for another runner-up finish after losing out in the title race to FC Santa Rosa.
Earlier this month, Cunupia made certain FC Santa Rosa would not add to its league triumph with a 4-3 penalty-kicks win after a pulsating 3-3 full-time draw at the same Arima venue.
Kevon Cornwall fired Santa Rosa ahead in the first minute, only for Woodley to get Cunupia back on level terms in the 22nd from the penalty spot. However, two minutes later, Giovanni Abraham restored Santa Rosa’s slim lead.
Darko then drew Cunupia level again in the 31st minute and a minute into time added on at the end of the first-half, Woodley, the league’s top scorer put his club ahead for the first time.
The second half was a much more cagey affair with both clubs struggling to add to their tally, until Noel Williams banged home an 83rd minute equaliser for Santa Rosa to keep outgoing coach Derek King, who will be off to Canada to link up with former national coach Stephen Hart, hopes of a second title this season alive.
But it was not to be as in the penalty shoot-out, Cunupia showed better nerves and firm finishing to edge the match, 4-3.
In the other semifinal, QPCC ran out a comfortable 3-0 winner over Petit Valley/Diego Martin United with Rashad Griffith scoring in the 23rd minute, before Devon Modeste netted a double in the 41st and 67th minutes.
QPCC (4-1-4-1): 1.Nicholas Dick (GK); 15.Trevon Mitchell, 5.Yohance Marshall (captain), 19.Leslie Joel Russell, 18.Kern Gardiner; 12.Kashif Clarke (8.Sean De Silva 70); 17.Rashad Griffith (27.Kevaughn John 87), 7.Keston George, 22.Nasyir Rodriguez, 21.Jared Bennett (6.Ackime Prudhomme 84); 10.Devon Modeste.
Unused Substitutes: 99.Jason Sheppard (GK), 3.J’ovan Marshall, 20.Shomari Antoine, 30.Curtis Andrew.
Coach: Shawn Cooper
Cunupia FC (4-3-3): 1.Keston Malchan (GK); 21.Mikheil Peters, 18.Maestro Mensah (captain), 12.Stefon Pierre, 7.Theon James; 5.Stephen Julien, 9.Isaiah Mejias, 8.Kristian Meloney; 3.Hakeem Legall, 10.Michael Yaw Darko, 15.Gerald Meloney (23.Darieon Bernard 76).
Unused Substitutes: 13.Christopher Byng.
Coach: Michael De Four
Referee: Kwinsi Williams
Video Highlights - Cunupia FC win TTSL League Cup Champions
Cunupia edge Parkites to Cup title.
By Joel Bailey (Newsday).
GOALS by Michael Darko and Gerald Meloney were enough to ensure Cunupia FC emerged victorious 2-1 over Queen’s Park, in Sunday’s final of the League Cup.
This match, at the Arima Velodrome, brought the curtains down on the 2018 Super League season.
For the most part, the encounter was a scrappy affair, played on a surface which had a huge area without grass in the middle of the field.
However, the Michael De Four-coached Cunupia, who were without the suspended striker Kevon “Showtime” Woodley and only had two substitutes available, dug deep to emerge as the match-winners.
The first half ended with a 1-1 scoreline, with both goals coming from the penalty spot.
Cunupia struck first in the 20th minute, courtesy of Darko, who sent his penalty kick down the middle, as goalkeeper Nicholas Dick dived to his right.
Referee Kwinsi Williams awarded the spot-kick after defender Kern Gardiner was adjudged to have handled a cross from Meloney.
The Parkites responded 15 minutes later, as striker Devon Modeste sent goalie Keston Malchan the wrong way, after Kashif Clarke was bundled over in the penalty box by Cunupia’s midfielder Stephen Julien.
The pressure to get the go-ahead goal resulted in a few tough tackles by both teams.
However, the Cunupia players composed themselves and regained the lead in the 61st minute.
A neat build-up down the right involving Darko and right-back Hakeem Legall resulted in a through ball to Meloney, who calmly placed his right-footed shot between the legs of an advancing Dick and into the back of the net.
The Parkites’ coach Shawn Cooper brought on ex-national midfielder Sean De Silva moments later.
The former national Youth World Cup player had been sidelined with injury but had a glorious opportunity to tie the scores in the 80th minute. From a free kick at the edge of the penalty box, De Silva could only watch in agony as his effort over the leaping Malchan missed the target by a few inches.
De Four: Easy like Sunday morning
By Joel Bailey (Newsday).
Cunupia coach delighted with Cup victory
COACH OF Cunupia FC, Michael De Four, has described his team's 2-1 victory over Queen's Park in the TT Super League Cup final as "easy like Sunday morning."
Playing at the Arima Velodrome on Sunday, Michael Darko (20th minute) and Gerald Meloney (61st) were on target for Cunupia, as Devon Modeste (35th) responded for the Parkites.
De Four noted his team was able to comfortably deal with the absence of influential striker Kevon “Showtime” Woodley, who picked up a red card in last weekend’s semi-final against league champs FC Santa Rosa.
“(It was) normal,” said the Cunupia coach. “That’s why we train, for these types of situations. We would prefer if it’s not that way but if (so) we just have to deal with it. And I think we did pretty well.”
The Parkites had the momentum going into the second half, but De Four said he did not have much to say to his players during the half-time interval.
“The only talk was to calm down the adrenaline that we had, because overall I think we play a more superior football and we could beat them at any given day,” said De Four. “It was just to calm them down and stick to the game-plan.”
Cunupia only had two reserves on their bench, and their coach revealed it was because of discipline.
"If you’re not training (consistently), you cannot play for us,” he said.
Reflecting on the 2018 season, De Four said, “It was an excellent season. We lifted some silverware – we didn’t lift any last year.”
He added, “This is our second year in the League. All and all, it was a good year.”
After finishing second in the league race and the cup, Parkites’ assistant coach Wayne Sheppard was disappointed with how things transpired.
“I thought the game was hard fought by both teams,” he said. “I thought (we) fell short in some of our passing, and that is what let us down in the attacking phase of the game.
“Defensively, we made two errors and we were punished for that.”
Queen’s Park resorted to a long-ball strategy in the latter stages, including captain and central defender Yohance Marshall playing as a centre-forward.
But Sheppard explained, “That wasn’t the instructions, I think that was a bit of panic from the guys, knowing that we were 2-1 down and time was going. Our strength was in the midfield.
“That was unfortunate, that wasn’t a true representation of Queen’s Park during the entire season.”
Sheppard described the season as disappointing, as they were unable to gain any trophy, despite the work that they put in.
Marshall, Sean De Silva, Keston George and Elton John joined the team this season, but John returned to his former club San Juan Jabloteh in October.
Sheppard hailed the group for their professionalism, especially in training.
“I’ve been a member of Queen’s Park since 1993,” he acknowledged. “We’ve had more talented teams than this but we’ve never had a team that has been as disciplined as this team.”