A brilliant free kick from ex-San Juan Jabloteh employee Nigel Daniel spared the blushes of his new employer, United Petrotrin, as the "Oilmen" edged Ma Pau 1-0 despite an uninspiring showing in their maiden 2009 Digicel Pro league outing at the Larry Gomes Stadium, Malabar.
Petrotrin captured local attention by their mass recruitment of ageing, former national players during the pre-season and nine of their starters had some level of international experience including new captain and 2006 World Cup player Cyd Gray. Yet, for much of the first half, Ma Pau might have wondered what the fuss was about.
The "Casino Boys" started brighter and Anthony Wolfe, another 2006 World Cup squad member, offered an early warning with a cracking 25-yard drive that brought a flying save from Petrotrin's Colombian custodian Edgar Ospina.
Petrotrin might have gone ahead themselves in the 31st minute as Ma Pau goalkeeper Shane Mattis, a pre-season capture from St Ann's Rangers, inexplicably spilled a tame Arnold Dwarika effort and was relieved to see the flag from referee's assistant Kevin Charles, which denied the alert Nigel Pierre.
The game's only clear scoring opportunity fell to Petrotrin striker Gary Glasgow but, after being released by former Joe Public teammate, Dwarika, he could not get his shot around Mattis.
Little else from the Petrotrin squad made much impact on the Arima audience until Daniel uncorked a brilliant, curling effort that flew past Mattis.
Petrotrin, who were without 2008 Pro League MVP Trent Noel-who unsuccessfully tried to swap Petrotrin for Public last week-and 2006 World Cup playmaker Aurtis Whitley, improved in the closing minutes but were pleased to hear the final whistle.
In the closing seconds, Ma Pau striker Shandel Samuel stumbled over a challenge in the opposing area but, to the horror of coach Michael McComie, he opted to stay on his feet rather than seek a penalty kick and the danger was snuffed out.
Petrotrin barely deserved the reprieve.
Jabloteh overrun Rangers.
Thirty-seven-year old CLICO San Juan Jabloteh player/coach Earl Jean savoured his third triumph from as many outings on Tuesday night as the defending champions defeated St Ann's Rangers 2-1 in a Digicel Pro League encounter at the Larry Gomes Stadium in Malabar.
First half goals from Cyrano Glen and Ataullah Guerra helped Jabloteh to three points against a traditionally tricky opponent although Rangers striker Josimar Belgrave ensured a nervy finish with a converted penalty kick in the 80th minute while, three minutes later, he rapped an effort off the outside of an upright.
Jean was happy with the three points although a more difficult test waits tomorrow night when they face his former employers, W. Connection, in a Caribbean Club Championship semi-final at the Marvin Lee Stadium in Macoya. Jean's Jabloteh edged Connection 2-1 in their opening Pro League fixture last Friday.
"It will be one of our most difficult games this season," said the St Lucian coach, about their upcoming showdown. "They will do everything for us not to get a double on them... I know coach (Stuart Charles-Fevrier) will have them in camp and they will be focused."
Jean has stepped in the breach for Jabloteh technical director and 2008 Pro League Coach of the Year, Terry Fenwick, who has temporarily vacated his post after going unpaid for five months. So far so good, though.
Rangers, who drew their opening match with Police 3-3 at the same venue on Saturday, rarely looked capable of getting a result on Tuesday.
Rangers coach Anthony Streete gave young goalkeeper Javan Seegobin his debut after a calamitous debut from Haitian custodian Fortunato Valcourt on the weekend and Jabloteh wasted little time in testing his mettle.
The 21-year-old Glen, the younger brother of 2006 World Cup player Cornell Glen, nearly uprooted the crossbar with a thunderous volley in the 16th minute before he hit the opener with a firm, curling effort from distance in the 27th minute.
Eight minutes later, Guerra converted an Elijah Manners cross for his third goal in as many matches under Jean and nearly managed another with a superb angled strike that rebounded off the far post.
Rangers did muster a consolation from the penalty spot although Belgrave was forced to take two kicks after teammate and captain Errol McFarlane was guilty of encroaching on the penalty area.
Spare some sympathy for McFarlane whose international goal record is a healthy seven items from eight starts and seven substitute appearances but is forced to sacrifice his striking instincts for a shift in central midfield as Rangers try to recover from a flurry of pre-season departures.
"I hate having to play McFarlane there," said Rangers coach Anthony Streete, "because he is a striker with the national team and we would like to give him the opportunity to gain more practice up front.
"But we don't have the experience to keep the ball in the middle and because of his ability to lead, he is helping us there."
Rangers' financial shortcomings have forced Streete to cut training sessions to just one hour in the evening-rather than the usual two and a half hours in the morning-so as to allow players to work during the day.
It could easily get worse before it improves as Rangers face Connection in their next league fixture on May 19.
If Jean has his way, the mood of his mentor, compatriot and Connection coach Stuart Charles-Fevrier would have considerably worsened by then.