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Connection, Central in to FA Trophy final
Central FC survived a “Ratty” scare to defeat Malabar FC 3-2 on kicks from the penalty sport following a thrilling 2-2 draw, and a second string DirecTV W Connection warmed late to defeat North East Stars 3-0 in Wednesday night’s FA Trophy double-header semifinals, at the Ato Boldon Stadium, Couva.
Central, winner of this season’s First Citizens Cup, and rival W Connection, winner of the Toyota Classic, will meet from 7.30pm on Wednesday in the FA Trophy final, following the third place contest between Malabar FC and North East Stars, which kicks off at 5pm.
Central, which suffered a 1-0 defeat in Digicel TT Pro League competition against leader, W Connection last Saturday, suffered an early goal against Malabar when in the third minute of play Gorian “Ratty” Highley redirected a cross to beat goalkeeper Jan Michael Williams for a 1-0 advantage.
Central suffered another blow in the 36th minute, when coach Terry Fenwick was forced to make a premature change, replacing his injured captain and versatile midfielder Marvin Oliver with Keon Trim.
Oliver’s ability to control the game and creativity was clearly missed, although Central later leveled the scores in the 38th minute when winger Johan Peltier turned sharply inside the area and fired past Malabar captain and defender Keston Pierre to beat a stunned goalkeeper Zane Coker for the equalizer.
But Highley popped up again in the 41 st minute from the penalty spot with a clinical finish, beating a fully stretched goalkeeper Williams, to restore the National Super League club’s advantage, 2-1.
Referee Gyasi Mc Donald had awarded the penalty when the ball off Malabar forward Kevon Woodley’s boot struck the arm of Central defender Akeem Benjamin inside the area.
Central, which had a good opportunity dismissed by Coker in the 54th minute, blocking out a substitute Darren Mitchell effort after a Marcano cross into the area was missed by strikers Dwight Quintero and Rundell Winchester, were lucky not to concede another item.
Highley produced a perfect cross to Woodley at the top of the area in the 62nd minute. However, Williams comfortably gathered the Tobagonian’s low strike.
And, when Shemol Trimmingham’s pass in the 63rd minute set Hayden Tinto free to evade a fully committed Williams outside the area, his curling effort towards goal was miraculously headed clear at the goal-line by rightback Elton John.
John’s heroics was temporarily erased in the 77th minute though, when the skillful Highley shredded the right-back to pieces on the left before finding teammate Cyrano Glen, who scuffed wide of the post from inside the area.
In the same minute Central’s Peltier, who struck wide in the 64th minute, and forced a save out of Coker a minute later, produced a fine cross which Winchester headed wide.
Then in the 82nd minute, Highley popped up again, picking up on an errant pass by Marcano, but was denied his hat-trick by the glove of Williams.
However, Central, already utilising its three substitutes, fell short of a player in the continuation after defender Keion Goodridge crashed awkwardly into the upright in his desperate effort to clear the Highley rebound ahead of Malabar’s Stevon Stoute.
Goodridge was rushed to Westshore Medical Hospital with the suspicion of fractured ribs; which was later ruled out following a chest x-ray and checks done by team doctor Welch and physiotherapist Oswin Birchwood.
Central went on to level the scores 1-1 in the 86 th minute when defender Jamal Jack made connection to goalkeeper Williams’ long free-kick into the Malabar area to hit past Coker, but wasted a winning opportunity in the 88th minute when Trim failed to direct in Winchester’s cross with goalkeeper Coker at his mercy.
Central, instead, went on to show their professionalism from the penalty spot, for a 3-2 win, despite Marcano’s miss high overbar on their first kick.
Elton John, Peltier and Winchester were all on target, guiding Central into the final.
While Malabar’s Highley and Nicholas Armstrong, struck the crossbar in the first and fifth kicks, respectively. Tinto scored on the second before Williams made a save against Norrel George in the third, and although getting some glove to the fourth, Woodley scored.
In the match it wasn’t as entertaining until the 67th minute when a powerful kick from a set piece by Connection right-back Alvin Jones, 23 yards out, was pushed into the air by a diving Stars goalie Cleon John, who failed to do better than glove the dropping ball into the back of his net.
Connection, which had the only close chance in the first half when Mickaeel Jem Gordon 39th minute curling strike off a Devaughn Elliot throw-in was just wide of the upper corner, celebrated the Jones item blissfully for a 1-0 advantage.
Connection came close in the 71st and 72nd minutes when Neil Benjamin Jr shaved the side netting and Tremain Shayn Paul smashed an effort just wide, respectively.
Brazilian midfielder Celio Da Silva Santos was also wide in the 80th minute, inches wide of the base of the upright, but made up in the second minute of stoppage time with a cool finish, for the 3-0 scoreline, from close up off a Rijssel pass.
Rijssel was also involved in Connection’s second item by playing in Benjamin for the initial effort, which was gloved out by goalkeeper John, but Hashim Arcia came cruising in for a tap in.
Connection, which ended with 10 men just as Central, after Elliot limped off in the 83rd minute, will surely revert to regulars against the side that defeated them 3-2 on penalties following a goalless draw in the semi-final round of 2013 First Citizens Cup two months ago.
TTFA Semifinal results
Central FC 2 (Johan Peltier 38th, Jamal Jack 86th) v Malabar FC 2 (Gorean Highley 3th, 41st) - Central won 3-2 via kicks from the penalty mark.
W Connection 3 (Alvin Jones 67th, Hashim Arcia 90th, Celio Da Silva Santos 90th+2) v North East Stars 0
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