Prisons FC and Terminix La Horquetta Rangers wrapped up the first weekend of the 2023/24 Trinidad and Tobago Premier Football League (TTPFL) season with contrasting victories over Central FC and Heritage Petroleum Point Fortin Civic on Sunday.
In the second game of an Arima Velodrome double-header, Prisons, who finished 11th on the 12-team tier-one table last season, got an excellent start to the new campaign as they spanked Central by a 4-1 margin. Prisons' wide pair of Trevis Byron and Jeremiah Vidale troubled the Central rear guard all game with their direct running and trickery, with Vidale notching a neat double to put an exclamation mark on his team's performance.
Central did have their chances to grab the ascendancy in the contest before Vidale got on the scoresheet for Prisons, with former Soca Warriors flanker Nathan Lewis at the heart of their attack. Lewis, a recent transfer from Eastern Football Association (EFA) champions Maloney Eagles, was stopped at point-blank range by Prisons custodian Kelvin Henry in the 11th minute. Just six minutes later, Lewis sent in a dangerous cross from the left which was headed onto the bar by Joshua Alexander.
The match turned on its head for Central thereafter though, as they gave away a rash penalty and were down by a 3-0 margin at the half as Prisons rattled off three goals in the space of 22 minutes before the break.
In the 20th minute, Prisons' veteran full-back Kemuel Rivers fired a penalty way over goalkeeper Nicholson Gordon's bar after the Central custodian cleaned up an opposing player in the area on a counter-attack. Gordon and Central's luck did not last too long, as Vidale drilled a low right-footed shot into the far corner in the 24th minute after getting by defender Kirtson Baird with consummate ease on the right flank. Byron then stung the palms of Gordon with a meaty hit in the 33rd minute, before Renaldo Francois doubled Prisons' lead with a left-footed curler which seemed to bamboozle both Gordon and his unsuspecting defenders in the 42nd minute.
In first-half stoppage-time, Vidale showed his accuracy in front of goal once more as he drilled another low, right-footed effort past a hapless Gordon at the end of a rapid Prisons counter.
Central did muster a goal of their own in the 48th minute, as midfielder Elton John converted a penalty after Alexander was brought down in the area. Vidale was denied a hat-trick goal in the 50th minute after a fine save from Gordon. Meanwhile, just seconds later, Lewis was also thwarted by a fine save at the other end. Lewis, 33, was easily Central's best attacking player on the night. However, the fleet-footed flanker could not help his team cut into Prison's lead any further.
In the 85th minute, Prisons put the icing on a fine display as substitute Dwight Jordan, an off-season acquisition from Jabloteh, beat Gordon with a clinical close-range finish after receiving a reverse pass from the impressive Vidale.
At the Mahaica Sporting Complex in Point Fortin, the hosts Civic were undone by a Rangers team that came from a goal down to get a 2-1 win. Civic jumped out to an early lead as attacker Ezekiel Kesar scored after just two minutes. Rangers, losing knockout cup finalists last season, restored parity in the 23rd minute through a penalty from Tyrone Charles. The La Horquetta team grabbed all three points on the road in the latter stages, with striker Isaiah Lee scoring in the 83rd minute to sour the home team.
In an interview with Newsday before the start of the season, Rangers coach Dave Quamina said, "One of the teams you may have to watch is the Point Fortin (Civic) team. They have assembled a good bunch of players so that is a team you have to watch."
Based on Sunday's evidence, all eyes will be on Quamina's unpredictable Rangers outfit as well.
TTPFL action will resume on Friday with three matches being held. Reigning champions Defence Force head the standings after the first weekend of matches following their resounding 5-0 win against last season's tier two winners 1976 FC Phoenix.
SOURCE: T&T Newsday