Central hoists Pro League crown, again; Couva Sharks complete historic three-peat

​Central FC players and staff celebrate their third consecutive Digicel Pro League crown following a 1-0 win over San Juan Jabloteh at the Ato Boldon Stadium on Feb. 5, 2017.

Monday, February 6, 2017

Central FC, the club less than five years old, have won an unprecedented third successive Digicel Pro League after edging San Juan Jabloteh 1-0 on Sunday, pipping Couva rivals W Connection to the crown for a second time in three seasons.

Central had gone into their final league game with a one-point advantage over second-positioned Connection, and got the decisive item through a diving header from Tobagonian winger Rundell Winchester five minutes from the half at the Ato Boldon Stadium.
​Central FC winger Rundell Winchester celebrates scoring the Digicel Pro League title winning goal in the 1-0 win over San Juan Jabloteh at the Ato Boldon Stadium on Feb. 5, 2017.
With the win, Central (47 points), league champions of 2014/15 and 2015/16, secured the 2016/17 title to etch themselves into the history books of the 18-year-old Pro League by becoming the first team to win the three-peat.

Six-time former league winners Connection (46 points), who had been incredible in their efforts all season, defeated Ma Pau Stars 2-0 for their seventh straight league win, but had to settle for second place.

Jamal Charles opened the scoring for Connection with a header on 53 minutes before Hughtun Hector completed the win for coach Stuart Charles Fevrier's men ten minutes from time at the Mannie Ramjohn Stadium.
​W Connection forward Jamal Charles, centre, holds pulls away from a challenge during a 2016-17 Digicel Pro League clash with St. Ann’s Rangers.
Ma Pau finished fourth (28 points), one spot behind Jabloteh (29 points), last season's runners-up, who had given Central a few scares.

“We are accustomed to being in these types of positions,” said Central FC captain Darren Mitchell. “We knew we had to work extra hard today. We knew Jabloteh were coming for a victory (to secure third spot) but we got the result in the end.

“[Now] it’s a great feeling—first time history in the Pro League—to be champions for a third straight time.”
​Central FC's Rundell Winchester scores a diving header over San Juan Jabloteh for a 1-0 win in their final game of the 2016-17 Digicel Pro League at the Ato Boldon Stadium on Feb. 5, 2017.
Mitchell had provided the left side cross that fellow Tobagonian Winchester dived in at the back post to bury the ball past former Central second-choice goalie Javon Sample for what turned out the winner.

Sample wasn’t the only former Couva Shark in the Jabloteh starting line-up that included defender Akeem Benjamin.

But it was another defender, Josiah Trimmingham, who had Jabloteh’s best chances—first heading just wide off a Nathan Lewis corner on six minutes then hitting straight at goalkeeper Jan-Michael Williams three minutes after the break when a free kick was cleared into his path at the goalmouth.

"We wanted to cement the third position and we wanted to spoil the (Central) party," said Jabloteh forward Jamal Gay. "But congratulations to Central FC for [accomplishing] the three-peat. I think they deserve it because they hold of a very strong Jabloteh squad and got the result."

Gay had not lack motivation but hadn’t received the needed support from new strike partner Jairo Lombardo before the under-21 Panamanian was replaced by Tyrone Charles after the break, before another newcomer Vernon Mills replaced the legs of Keyon Edwards just before the hour mark.

Charles, 20 minutes on, missed out on the equaliser when he struck wide from 16 yards out after meeting a through-pass by Jamaican Keithy Simpson, who was later replaced by Aaquil Campbell.
​Central FC midfielder and captain Darren Mitchell, centre, hold of challenges by San Juan Jabloteh’s Akeem Benjamin, left, and Nathan Lewis during the Couva Sharks 1-0 win over at the Ato Boldon Stadium on Feb. 5, 2017.
“It was always about believing right down to the end,” said a teary-eyed Central FC head coach, Dale Saunders afterwards. “We got the job done. A great… great feeling. Glory to God the almighty.

“And, I owe it to the players and staff. Everybody deserve this [title]. We always had what it takes to be champions [again] and we showed just that.”
​Trinidad and Tobago Men's Senior Team coach Dennis Lawrence joined TT Pro League general secretary Julia Baptiste in presenting Central FC captain with the 2016-17 Digicel Pro League crown following a 1-0 win over San Juan Jabloteh at the Ato Boldon Stadium on Feb. 5, 2017.
It was the celebrating moment for Saunders at the end of his first full season in charge of the Couva Sharks. Last season Saunders took over from former coach Ross Russell midway through the season, a move that saw a turnaround in Central and the successful defence of their league and Caribbean crowns.

Saunders, who previously served as assistant coach to former Central coaches Zoran Vranes, Terry Fenwick and Russell, has been assisted this season by former Trinidad and Tobago internationals and World Cup 2006 Soca Warriors, Stern John and Brent Sancho, the club’s managing director.

“Opportunities in life, you have to take with both hands. And you can see we got the job done at the end of the day,” ended Saunders.

Central’s Mitchell bagged the most league goals for his side this term with 8, four goals shy of Golden Boot leader Akeem Roach (12 goals) of Club Sando (25 points), who finished fifth and above, in descending order, Police FC, Defence Force, St. Ann’s Rangers, Morvant Caledonia United and Point Fortin Civic. (See full table below)

Defence Force forwards Hashim Arcia and Jamille Boatswain both have 10 goals after each, along with Jerwyn Balthazar, scoring twice in a 6-0 lead over Civic on Saturday. And, with 20 minutes of play outstanding against Point Fortin side, after lights failure abandoned play at the Mahaica Oval, the duo still stands within range of the Golden Boot.
​Central FC winger Rundell Winchester, centre, appears to breeze past San Juan Jabloteh’s Josiah Trimmingham, left, and Keyon Edwards during the 2016-17 Digicel Pro League champions 1-0 win at the Ato Boldon Stadium on Feb. 5, 2017.
Central, meanwhile, won’t have much celebrating with this week’s quarter-final round of the season-ending Digicel Pro Bowl – a title the Couva Sharks captured in 2015 – up next.

Central must take on Rangers on Wednesday from 6pm at the Ato Boldon Stadium before W Connection tackle Police from 8pm at the same venue.

Quarter-final action continues on Thursday with Ma Pau Stars against Club Sando from 6pm again at the Ato Boldon Stadium before Jabloteh and Defence Force lock horns from 8pm.

Digicel Pro League 2016-17
Round Two Match Day Nine
(Sunday, February 5, 2017)
Central FC 1 (Rundell Winchester 40') vs San Juan Jabloteh 0, at Ato Boldon Stadium;

W Connection 2 (Jamal Charles 53', Hughtun Hector 80') vs Ma Pau Stars 0, at Mannie Ramjohn Stadium.

(Saturday, February 4, 2017)
Point Fortin Civic 0 vs Defence Force 6 (Jerwyn Balthazar 16', 43', Jamille Boatswain 18', 50', Hashim Arcia 30', 63'), at Mahaica Oval.
(Game abandoned after 70 minutes due to lights failure)

(Friday, February 3, 2017)
Club Sando 3 (Joel Kevin Lewis 3’, Akeem Humphrey 12’, Shaquille Holder 55’) vs St. Ann’s Rangers 3 (Che Benny 63’, 85’, Jameel Antoine 82’ penalty), at Ato Boldon Stadium;

Morvant Caledonia United 1 (Lester Joseph 64’) vs Police FC 1 (Jameel Perry 1’), at Ato Boldon Stadium.

Digicel Pro League 2016-17 standings

Rank

Team

MP

W

D

L

GF

GA

GD

Points

 

1

Central FC

18

15

2

1

41

14

27

47

 

2

W Connection

18

15

1

2

50

13

37

46

 

3

San Juan Jabloteh

18

9

2

7

32

23

9

29

 

4

Ma Pau Stars

18

8

4

6

33

29

4

28

 

5

Club Sando

18

7

4

7

33

34

-1

25

 

6

Police FC

18

5

5

8

36

35

1

20

 

7

Defence Force

17

6

2

9

24

30

-6

20

 

8

St. Ann’s Rangers

18

4

5

9

23

39

-16

17

 

9

Morvant Caledonia Utd.

18

2

6

10

19

32

-13

12

 

10

Point Fortin Civic

17

1

3

13

17

59

-42

6

 


Teams at the Ato Boldon Stadium on Sunday

Central FC: 21.Jan-Michael Williams (GK), 3.Keion Goodridge (Yellow Card), 5.Keston George, 6.Leston Paul, 7.Jason Marcano (45.Tyrik John 87th minute), 11.Darren Mitchell (Capt.), 17.Johan Peltier (17.Sean De Silva 67th minute), 24.Kevon Villaroel, 26.Mickaeel Jem Gordon, 33.Julius James, 77.Rundell Winchester.

Unused substitutes: 30.Akel Clarke (GK), 10.Keron Cummings, 12.Kishun Seecharan, 15.Kaydion Gabriel, 29.Jabari Casaquero.

Coach: Dale Saunders

San Juan Jabloteh: 1.Javon Sample (GK), 6.Akeem Benjamin, 7.Jamal Gay, 8.Keyon Edwards (Yellow Card) (14.Vernon Mills 59th minute), 9.Keithy Simpson (19.Aaquil Campbell 80th minute), 11.Damian Williams (Capt.) (Yellow Card), 12.Kion Joseph, 16.Jairo Lombardo (10.Tyrone Charles 46th minute), and 17.Josiah Trimmingham, 18.Jevon Morris, 27.Nathan Lewis.

Unused substitutes: 30.Shemel Louison (GK), 21.Aquil Selby. 23.Kennedy Hinkson, 24.Adrian Reid.

Coach: Keith Jeffrey

Referee: Keilon Bacchus
Assistant Referee 1: Oladele Thomas
Assistant Referee 2: Kevin Lewis
Fourth Official: Gregory Lewis