W Connection bid for a sixth T&T Pro League title and first since the 2013-2014 campaign was slowed on Wednesday night after a 1-1 draw with former champions, San Juan Jabloteh at the Hasely Crawford Stadium, Mucurapo.
With joint second placed Police FC edging Morvant Caledonia United 2-1 in the night’s opener at the same venue to join the leaders on 33 points, the pressure was on the ‘Savonetta Boys’ to get a win to go into their final matchday encounter with Terminix St Ann’s Rangers, needing only a draw to be declared champions.
However, the opening goal for the W Connection against a stubborn Jabloteh didn’t’ come until the 65th-minute courtesy Neil Benjamin Jr.
But the league leaders’ joy was short-lived as Jabloteh hit back two minutes later thanks to Nickel Orr to even up the match at 1-1 after which both teams failed to find the winner.
With one round of matches left for the top three teams, W Connection heads the table with 34 points from 17 matches, one ahead of Police FC and three-time winners, Central FC.
The "Lawmen" led from as early as the fourth minute via Kareem Freitas. Fellow striker Jameel Perry doubled the advantage in the 62nd before Keion Goodridge netted a 90th-minute consolation for Morvant Caledonia United which stayed on 27 points and out of the race for a top-two finish. This will guarantee Concacaf Champions League qualifying football in the Caribbean Football Union competition.
Down at the Ato Boldon Stadium, Couva, national midfielder Duane Muckette decisive strike in the 75th minute secured a 2-1 win for Central FC over Defence Force to stay in the chase for a fourth Pro League title in five years.
Akim Armstrong had given Central FC the lead in the fourth minute, but Rodell Elcock got Defence Force on level terms on the stroke of half-time, before Muckette’s winner.
And in the night’s other encounter at Couva, Shackiel Henry scored a second-half hat-trick as Club Sando routed St Ann’s Rangers 8-0 to move solely into the fourth spot with 30 points and two matches left to play.
Henry got his goals in the 61st, 68th and 90th while Akeem Humphrey (18th & 76th) and Keron Cornwall (80th & 82nd) banged in doubles, and Tyrone Charles, the other four minutes into time added one.
With last year’s league champions North East Stars being suspended for two out its matches due to financial problems, the league has taken a decision to reschedule their outstanding matches against Club Sando and Defence Force prior to the final match day for all teams while a decision was made to award St Ann’s Rangers a 3-0 default win over Stars for a called off encounter.
However, when the final round of matches do kick off, W Connection will be heavily fancied to complete its title chase as it faces cellar-placed North East Stars; while Central FC and Police clash; and Morvant Caledonia United meet Club Sando.
And in the other matches. Pt Fortin Civic comes up against Defence Force FC while Jabloteh faces Rangers.
Central FC 2 (Akim Armstrong 15th, Duane Muckette 75th) vs Defence Force 1 (Rodell Elcock 45th)
Club Sando 8 (Shackiel Henry 61st, 68th, 90th, Akeem Humphrey 18th, 76th, Keron Cornwall 80th, 82nd, Tyrone Charles 94th) vs St Ann’s Rangers 0
San Juan Jabloteh 1 (Nickel Orr 67th) vs W Connection 1 (Neil Benjamin Jr 65th)
Police FC 2 (Kareem Freitas 4th, Jameel Perry 62nd) vs Morvant Caledonia United 1 (Keion Goodridge 90th)
Pro League goes down to the wire
By Joel Bailey (Newsday).
At least three teams in contention on final day
THE 2018 Pro League will be decided on the final day of action on December 5, with W Connection, Police, Central FC and Club Sando all in the title hunt.
After 17 matches, W Connection have a tally of 34 points, followed by Police and Central FC with 33 apiece. Club Sando, who have a game in hand against 2017 league winners North East Stars tomorrow at the Ato Boldon Stadium in Couva from 5 pm, are on 30 points.
W Connection’s final match will be against North East, but Police and Central FC are set to square off against each other in their last league fixture.
Also, on the final day programme, Club Sando will meet Morvant Caledonia United and Terminix St Ann’s Rangers will face San Juan Jabloteh.
On Wednesday, five-time league kings Connection dropped two crucial points as they were held to a 1-1 draw by Jabloteh, in the second of back-to-back matches at the Hasely Crawford Stadium, Mucurapo.
In the earlier game at Mucurapo, Police beat Morvant Caledonia United 2-1, and three-time champions Central edged Defence Force by a similar margin, at the Ato Boldon Stadium, Couva.
Connection needed a win to maintain the three-point gap between themselves and their nearest rivals, Police and Central.
But the Stuart Charles Fevrier-coached outfit struggled to break down a disciplined Jabloteh squad.
Connection winger Neil Benjamin struck the post in the 17th minute, after goalkeeper Christopher Bigette parried a long-range shot from Kadeem Corbin.
Six minutes before the half-time interval, in-form striker Marcus Joseph met a corner from Jomal Williams, but his header went inches over the bar.
Connection changed gears in the second half, and bombarded the Jabloteh defence with a series of attacks.
Williams went close with a right-footed effort in the 48th; Corbin poked wide of the mark after collecting a pass from Joseph in the 53rd, and followed up with a scissor-kick attempt overbar in the 55th.
Joseph’s header, from a cross by left-back Kurt Frederick, missed the target by inches.
The pressure eventually paid off in the 63rd, as Frederick raced down the left and sent a ball which was missed by Joseph, but Benjamin was on hand to hit home from close range.
Jabloteh were not intent on leaving the match empty-handed, and national Under-20 midfielder Nickel Orr responded with an equaliser in the 66th, as he waltzed past three defenders (Triston Hodge, Frederick and Gerard Williams) before slotting his left-footed shot beyond the reach of goalie Julani Archibald.
Police got goals from Kareem Freitas (fourth) and Jameel Perry (62nd), with Keon Goodridge (90th) responding for Morvant Caledonia United.
Central FC stayed in the race to earn their fourth league crown in five seasons with a hard-fought victory over the Army-Coast Guard combination.
Akim Armstrong put Central ahead in the 15th minute, but Rodell Elcock equalised for Defence Force in the 45th. Duane Muckette got his name on the scoresheet in the 75th to ensure three vital points for Central.
Shackiel Henry notched a hat-trick as Club Sando hammered Terminix St Ann’s Rangers 8-0 in the first match at Couva.
Henry found the back of the net in the 61st, 68th and 90th minutes.
Akeem Humphrey (18th and 76th) and Keron Cornwall (80th and 82nd) each scored twice, and Tyrone Charles completed the rout, in the fourth minute of second half stoppage time.
On Tuesday, Point Fortin Civic registered a 3-1 victory over North East, at the Larry Gomes Stadium in Arima.
In related news, there will be a rescheduled league fixture today, with Point Fortin hosting Defence Force at the Mahaica Oval from 7 pm.