Defence Force claimed the 2012-2013 Digicel Pro League Championship on Monday night, but did so in unsatisfactory fashion on the penultimate match day.
Defence Force, 43 points at the top of the table, were hammered 4-0 by last season’s winners DIRECTV W Connection in the first match of a Round Three Match Day Six double header at the Ato Boldon Stadium.
Eighteen year old Connection attacker Neil Benjamin registered a superb second half hat-trick and another teenager, substitute Alvin Jones, sealed the surprise win with the fourth item. At which time the Soldiers failed to celebrate the title.
But following the second match of the double header at the Couva venue, second positioned Caledonia AIA (39 points) were also defeated to the luck of Defence Force. The Morvant/Laventille club falling 2-1 against home team Central FC; relinquishing a mathematical chance of lifting the title and also handing Army the crown without a fight on Friday in the final match day.
Central striker Rundell Winchester, returning from a lengthy layoff due to injury, scored on either side of the half on instances of defensive errors by Caledonia in the 28th and 83rd minutes.
While Caledonia failed to make two excellent second half chances count, following an equalizing item by Jamal Gay in the 32nd minute.
Seconds after the interval Gay provided Nathan Lewis with a good look at goal, however the speedy winger struck wide. And after a mix-up in the Central defense in injury time, Caledonia substitute Vurlon Mills wasted wide with the goal at his mercy.
Looking ahead Defence Force will next take on bottom of the table T&TEC FC, and Caledonia against seventh positioned St. Ann’s Rangers, and whatever the results, the top two have already been declared.
Defence Force remaining four points ahead of Caledonia with just three points to play for on Friday.
However the Soldiers were no longer in a partying mood, and didn’t even request the League trophy by the time of Caledonia’s loss.
In-form Connection, fresh from its Lucozade Sport Goal Shield crowning on Friday and qualification into the 2013-2014 CONCACAF Champions’ League earlier in the week were the ones celebrating though.
It was a huge win for the Stuart Charles Fevrier coached side having suffered 5-1 and 2-1 league defeats this season against the Soldiers.
Benjamin had Connection in front 1-0 by the 59th minute with a classy chip defeating an advanced goalkeeper Kevin Graham after connecting to a forward by another teenager Tremain Shayn Paul.
Benjamin was brilliant again in the 66th minute to hand his side a 2-0 cushion. The teenager was clearly motivated after his first, and hungry for a second. His athletic presence in the area in chase of a Stefano Rijssel pass forced a tangle by defender Russ Russell Jr. and Graham and Benjamin picking up on the free ball to hit into an open net.
And it got worse for the Soldiers by the 75th minute when team captain and right back Corey Rivers was shown a direct red card by referee Neil Brizan after a malicious foul on Rijssel.
Then in the 77th minute Rijssel raced down the left, turning his marker into a spectator and guiding a low cross into the six yard area for the arrival of Benjamin behind Army substitute defender Aklie Edwards to complete his hat-trick.
Rijssel then tried his luck from distance in the 79th minute and forced a good save out of Graham with a stinger from above the area.
But from another Rijssel cross in the 84th minute, Alvin Jones, who only entered the pitch around three minutes earlier, had the simple task of tapping in his first Connection goal and his team’s fourth on the night.
The result kept Connection at pace with North East Stars, which defeated T&TEC 5-0 with all goals coming in the last 12 minutes of play in the first match of a double header at the Marvin Lee Stadium. Connection and Stars are with 35 points each in third and fourth respectively, and separated by goal difference.
Elijah Manners (79th minute) opened the late scoring for the Angus Eve-coached Stars before goals by Jean-Luc Rochford (82nd minute), Marcus Gomez (87th minute), Micah Lewis (88th minute) and Kareem Moses (90th minute) rained in.
And in the second match at the Macoya venue, St. Ann’s Rangers came from behind with a Ryan O’Neil (71st minute) goal to draw 1-1 with Police FC after Todd Ryan (62nd minute) had the Lawmen in front.
Police will next take on Connection on Friday and North East Stars against Central on Friday.
As Defence Force, League winners in 2010-2011, picks up its second League title in the last three seasons and W Connection looks to hold on for third ahead of Stars; Caledonia, winners of the First Citizens Cup and FA Trophy this season, were once again one step behind the illusive League title.
W Connection 4—0 Defence Force
Neil Benjamin 59’, 66’, 77’, Alvin Jones 84’
W Connection—Alejandro Figueroa, Clyde Leon (capt.), Daneil Cyrus, Hashim Arcia (Joevin Jones 66th), Leslie Joel Russell, Christian Viveros (Alvin Jones 81st), Stefano Rijssel, Jomal Williams (Silvio Spann 71st), Kurt Frederick (Yellow Card), Tremain Shayn Paul, Neil Benjamin.
Unused substitutes—Aquelius Sylvester, Jelani Grovsenor, Eligah Joseph, Andrei Pacheco.
Technical Director/Head Coach—Stuart Charles Fevrier.
Defence Force—Kevin Graham, Corey Rivers (capt.) (Red Card), Devin Jordan (Yellow Card), Devorn Jorsling, Kevon Carter, Jerwyn Balthazar, Ross Russell Jr., Sean Narcis (Richard Roy 60th), Dexter Pacheco (Josimar Belgrave 52nd), Rodell Elcock, Jemel Sebro (Aklie Edwards 67th).
Unused substitutes—Sheldon Clarke, Glynn Franklyn, Kerry Joseph, Dwight Scott.
Technical Director/Head Coach—Ross Russell.
Central FC 2—1 Caledonia AIA
Rundell Winchester 28’, 83’, Jamal Gay 32’
Central FC—Quesi Weston, Carey Harris (capt.), Omar Charles, Hayden Tinto (Sayid Frietas 74th), Anthony Wolfe, Adrian Noel, Darren Mitchell (Yellow Card), Rundell Winchester, Jason Marcano, Dario Holmes (Yellow Card) (Peter Byers 82nd), Johan Peltier (Marc Leslie 74th).
Unused substitutes—Shane Mattis, Cyrano Glen, Darryl Trim, Hector Sam, Rennie Britto.
Tenhnical Director/Head Coach—Terry Fenwick.
Caledonia AIA—Glenroy Samuel, Stephan David (capt.), Aubrey David (Akeem Thomas 62nd) (Yellow Card), Nuru Abdullah Muhammad (Yellow Card), Colin Nelson, Kareem Joseph (Vurlon Mills 81st), Akim Armstrong, Sherron Joseph (Keyon Edwards 77th), Densill Theobald, Jamal Gay, Nathan Lewis.
Unused substitutes—Shemel Louision, Odelle Armstong, Nical Stephens, Miguel Alejandro Romeo.
Technical Director—Jamaal Shabazz / Coach—Jerry Moe.