Plaza nets on return but Guerra double steals the Central show; Connection close in on Rawle Fletcher Trophy

Willis Plaza, left, makes a run towards goal during a Digicel Pro League match last season against Point Fortin Civic.
Monday 12 January 2015

Willis Plaza's long awaited return for Central FC – the club he had served remarkably well last season – finally arrived on Sunday and the 27-year-old Trinidad and Tobago international celebrated in style with an amazing volleyed goal and creditable performance against Point Fortin Civic.

However it was another T&T international and club-mate Ataulla Guerra that stole the show with a late double as the Digicel Pro League 2014-2015 leaders defeated Civic 3-1.

Plaza had set himself perfectly above the six yard area, two minutes into the second half, and with a timed swing of the left foot, the forward volleyed substitute Jason Marcano’s looped cross into the back of goalkeeper Marvin Phillip’s net for a 1-0 Central lead.

Plaza, who had dragged a first half attempt wide of the goal, wasn’t the only January signing of Central FC to stamp authority on the game as incoming defender Uriah Bentick was on par and Rundell Winchester always dangerous on the flank.

Bentick last represented Carolina RailHawks in the North American Soccer League in the 2014 season, while Plaza and Winchester were awaiting the January FIFA transfer window since returning to Trinidad in September after CS Vise in the Belgium third division failed to fulfill salaries to the T&T internationals.

Less than ten minutes after Plaza’s goal, Winchester sent in a powerful left-footed strike but his effort struck the top of the crossbar to the relief of Phillip.

Civic and T&T goalie Phillip, who made a double save in the 3rd minute, first denying Qian Grosvenor then the rebound by Guerra, produced excellent saves in the 78th and 81st minutes to deny Guerra again, with the latter created by a perfect Plaza cross behind the defence.

But on the 86th minute Guerra finally found the back of an open net for a 2-0 Central cushion after he was fed a pass by substitute Kaydion Gabriel following a defence-splitting pass by team captain Sean de Silva.

Guerra then made it 3-0 in the 91st minute with a 24-yard free kick over the wall and into the back of Phillip's net following a foul by Civic captain Andre Ettienne on Jason Marcano.

Ettienne was shown his second yellow card of the match for the incident and sent off, however Civic, having a missed penalty by midfielder Andrei Pacheco in the 40th minute, finally found the back of the net in the final of three minutes stoppage time when defender Weslie John headed past goalkeeper Jan-Michael Williams from a corner.

In the end, the “Central Sharks”, completing their round matches, maintained top position with 17 points from 8 matches.

However defending league champions DIRECTV W Connection, in the second fixture of the Round One Match Day Eight double header, kept within one point of Central by defeating Caledonia AIA 3-0.

Connection (16 points), with one match remaining in the round (against San Juan Jabloteh from 8 pm on Tuesday at the Marvin Lee Stadium), are now well positioned to hurdle its rivals for the inaugural Round One Rawle Fletcher Trophy and $35,000 prize.

Neil Benjamin Jr. opened the scoring in the 29th minute against Caledonia, blasting into the roof of goalkeeper Shemel Louison’s net following a sweeping move by Connection and with Hashim Arcia providing the deciding pass into the area.

Ten minutes later Caledonia were trailing by 2-0 against a depleted Connection when Shirlo Johnson swooped in on a spill by Louison to hit into the net.

Then in the 52nd miniute Arcia got on the score sheet for a 3-0 Connection lead after Benjamin returned a scoring opportunity to the lanky forward.

Connection had further scoring opportunities but Louison, who keep out a rocket sent in by Alvin Jones from a set piece in the 22nd minute, made three excellent saves to deny Arcia in the 75th minute; a chipped Jomol Williams attempt in the 77th minute; and a low Tremain Shayn Paul effort in the 89th minute.

But it wasn’t enough as Caledonia, featuring the return of lightening-paced Guyana winger Trayon Bobb, failed to keep alive its mathematical chance at lifting the Round One - Rawle Fletcher Trophy.

Caledonia will return to action on Tuesday – the final match day of Round One – against North East Stars from 6 pm at the Marvin Lee Stadium followed by Jabloteh against Connection from 8 pm.

Simultaneously at the Ato Boldon Stadium Defence Force will meet St. Ann’s Rangers from 6 pm and Police FC against Point Fortin Civic from 8 pm.

Digicel Pro League 2014-2015
Round One Match Day Eight results
On Saturday at the Marvin Lee Stadium
North East Stars 1 (Keron Cummings 7') vs St. Ann’s Rangers 0
Defence Force 2 (Josimar Belgrave 16', Sean Narcis 84') vs San Juan Jabloteh 1 (Brent Sam 65')

On Saturday at the Marvin Lee Stadium
Central FC 3 (Willis Plaza 47’, Ataulla Guerra 86’, 90’+1) vs Point Fortin Civic 1 (Weslie John 90’+3)

W Connection 3 (Neil Benjamin Jr. 29’, Shirlo Johnson 39’, Hashim Arcia 52’) vs Caledonia AIA 0

Upcoming matches
Round One Match Day Nine
Tuesday 13 January 2015
Marvin Lee Stadium
North East Stars vs Caledonia AIA—6 pm
San Juan Jabloteh vs W Connection—8 pm

Ato Boldon Stadium
Defence Force vs St. Ann's Rangers—6 pm
Police FC vs Point Fortin Civic—8 pm

Sunday’s teams
Central FC—21. Jan-Michael Williams (GK), 5. Akeem Benjamin, 4. Uriah Bentick, 9. Qian Grosvenor (7. Jason Marcano 46th minute), 14. Jean-Luc Rochford (11. Darren Mitchel 73rd minute), 77. Rundell Winchester (15. Kaydion Gabriel 73rd minute), 17. Marcelle Francois, 10. Marvin Oliver, 8. Sean de Silva, 33. Willis Plaza, 45. Ataulla Guerra

Unused substitutes—30. Akel Clarke (GK), 19. Nathaniel Garcia, 99. Dwight Quintero, 25. Elijah Manners

Coach—Zoran Vranes

Point Fortin Civic—1. Marvin Phillip (GK), 4. Weslie John, 5. Andre Ettienne (C) (Y+Y=Red Card), 2. Garyl Doldron (8. Nickcolson Thomas 46th minute), 3. Steven Joseph, 6. Akeem Redhead, 9. Matthew Bartholomew, 19. Andrei Pacheco (17. Keswin Goolie 58th minute), 12. Glenn Sutton, 11. Andre Toussaint, 20. Jamille Boatswain (10. Marcus Joseph 58th minute)

Unused substitutes—24. Miguel Payne (GK), 21. Andre Alexis, 13. Tevin Balfor, 15. Ronell Paul, 16. Ancil Wells

Coach—Reynold Carrington

W Connection—22. Aquelius Sylvester (GK), 5. Mekeil Williams, 11. Tremain Shayn Paul, 30. Aaquil Campbell (21. Jomol Williams 64th minute), 14. Hashim Arcia, 13. Devaughn Elliot, 37. Shirlo Johnson (3. Gerard Williams 73rd minute), 39. Alvin Jones, 65. Neil Benjamin Jr. (16. Anselm Jackson 80th minute), 36. Triston Hodge, 19. Leslie Joel Russell

Unused substitutes—2. Kurt Frederick, 1. Terrence Lewis (GK), 4. Jamil Joseph, 18. Julani Archibald (GK)

Coach—Stuart Charles Fevrier

Caledonia AIA—1. Shemel Louison (GK), 8. Keron Bethelmy, 4. Conrod Smith (5. Cristoper Mejia 55th minute), 10. Hayden Tinto (18. Trayon Bobb 55th minute), 27. Nathan Lewis, 12. Kareem Joseph (C), 9. Keyon Edwards, 16. Pierre Hitner, 22. Jameel Neptune, 32. Kyle Bartholomew (19. Julio Noel 70th minute), 20. Rogelio Robinson

Unused substitutes—14. Keon Russell, 33. Zane Coker, 14. Keon Russell, 28. Pernell Schultz

Coach—Jamaal Shabazz