Three-time holders Central held by Jabloteh on Pro League opening night

File photo: Former Morvant Caledonia United goalkeeper Stephon Seepersad shines on debut for Central FC.

Morvant Caledonia United, last season’s bottom-enders, made a winning start to the 2017 Pro League season last night, but three-time defending champions Central FC had to settle for a point.

Guyana forward Sheldon Holder scored a brilliant -- though slightly deflected -- goal to lift Morvant Caledonia to a 2-1 win over Club Sando before San Juan Jabloteh held Central to a goalless draw to complete a double-header at the Ato Boldon Stadium in Couva.

Sando debutant Tyrone Charles had given his new employers the lead on 13 minutes, pouncing on a spill by Morvant Caledonia’s Ghanaian defender Maestro Mensah at the goalmouth to beat goalkeeper Glenroy Samuel.

But Kerry Daniel, who like Samuel has made a return to Morvant this season, levelled the Stallions with a fine strike from above the area after latching onto a short Kareem Joseph free-kick to find the far top corner of Stefan Berkeley’s net.

Berkeley was beaten again from outside the box on the hour mark when Holder, unleashed by a quickly taken Joseph free-kick, sent a shot sailing beyond the Sando custodian and into the back of the net with a slight deflection to separate an entertaining opening display by both teams.

Stephon Seepersad, Morvant Caledonia’s substitute goalie of last season, later kept a clean sheet for his new employers, Central FC, on debut.

Central also handed Pro League debuts to former Trinidad and Tobago Under-17 attacker Jesse Joseph, Haitian defender Fresnel Simil, and 30-year-old former T&T U17, Under-20 and Under-23 defender Sean Bateau, who had stints in the United States, Thailand, Maldives and Philippines.

But it was seasoned Pro League campaigner Jason Marcano that had the best chances for the Couva Sharks. However goalkeeper Javon Sample, who made the switch to Jabloteh last season, stood in the way of his former employers with brilliant stops on either side of the half to deny Marcano, who had curled his side’s best chance inches wide minutes into the contest.

Last month, Central, without the services of former marquee players Jan-Michael Williams, Darren Mitchell and Leston Paul who are no longer attached to the club, relinquished the Caribbean crown—a title they had won consecutively in the previous two seasons. The Couva Sharks had to settle for fourth in the Caribbean Club Championship this time around, while former champions, Jabloteh, finished runners-up behind Dominican Republic’s Cibao FC.

Central, now attempting a fourth straight Pro League crown, were unable to break the deadlock against Jabloteh, and were lucky not to concede a late defeat thanks to the heroics of Seepersad.

Seepersad’s outstretched leg in stoppage time denied Jabloteh substitute Aaquil Campbell’s close up effort, adding to his brilliant stop just over the hour mark to blank Jamaican attacker Keithy Simpson, who had earlier drilled an excellent scoring chance inches wide before the break.

Today, the iconic Arima Velodrome will welcome Pro League football for the first time in the current era when North East Stars, headed by coach Derek King, host point Fortin Civic from 7pm.

And on Monday, action returns to the Ato Boldon Stadium with a double-header when Defence Force tackle Police FC from 6pm and W Connection take on MIC-IT St. Ann’s Rangers from 8pm.

Trinidad and Tobago Pro League 2017
Round One Match Day One
Friday’s (9 June 2017) results
Club Sando 1 (Tyrone Charles 13’) vs Morvant Caledonia United 2 (Kerry Daniel 29’, Sheldon Holder 60’), at Ato Boldon Stadium;

Central FC 0 vs San Juan Jabloteh 0, at Ato Boldon Stadium.

Upcoming fixtures
(Saturday 10 June 2017)
Arima Velodrome
North East Stars vs Point Fortin Civic—7pm

(Monday 12 June 2017)
Ato Boldon Stadium
Defence Force vs Police FC—6pm
W Connection vs MIC-IT St. Ann’s Rangers—8pm

Teams at the Ato Boldon Stadium on Friday
Game 1
Club Sando: 1.Stefan Berkeley (GK), 5.Nical Stephens (Yellow Card), 9.Akeem Redhead (15.Keyon Edwards 69th minute), 10.Keron Cornwall, 11.Akim Armstrong (8.Kevon Piper 69th minute) (Yellow Card), 13.Tyrone Charles, 16.Joel Leslie Russell, 17.Jared London (Capt.), 18.Trevin Latapy, 23.Nicholas Thomas (Yellow Card), 27.Jay-son Joseph (6.Kemuel Rivers 69th minute).

Unused substitutes: 14.Rushawn Murphy, 34.Kelvin Henry (GK), 35.Adan Noel, 36.Jamal Gay.

Coach: Angus Eve

Morvant Caledonia United: 1.Glenroy Samuel (GK), 2.Murilo Barbosa, 6.Taje Commissiong, 8.Anthony Charles, 10.Sheldon Holder (7.Kelrick Walters 73rd minute), 12.Kareem Joseph (Capt.) (25.Renaldo Francis 80th minute), 15.Otev Lawrence, 17.Kerry Daniel (5.Joshua Sylvester 65th minute), 18.Maestro Mensah, 20.Kareem Baptiste, 29.Kelsey Benjamin.

Unused substitutes: 13.Rufuson Pierre Louis, 16.Malik Mieres, 24.Michael Ten-Pow, 31.DeJourn Charles.  

Coach: Jamaal Shabazz

Referee: Gordon Maloney
Assistant Referee 1: Simon Baptiste
Assistant Referee 2: Garfield Weeks
Fourth Official: M.J. Mohammed

Game 2
Central FC: 1.Stephon Seepersad (GK), 5.Keston George, 7.Jason Marcano (Yellow Card) (18.Tyrik John 90th minute), 8.Sean De Silva (Capt.), 10.Johan Peltier, 12.Taryk Sampson, 15.Kaydion Gabriel (Yellow Card), 17.Jesse Joseph (11.Jabari Casaquero 68th minute), 26.Mikaeel Gem Gordon, 28.Fresnel Simil (Yellow Card) (19.Nathaniel Garcia 46th minute), 40.Sean Bateau.

Unused substitutes: 13.Rhondel Gibson, 24.Jules Lee, 44.Ross Dowden, 46.John Charles.

Coach: Dale Saunders

San Juan Jabloteh: 1.Javon Sample (GK), 6.Akeem Benjamin, 9.Keithy Simpson (20.Aaquil Campbell 84th minute), 11.Damian Williams (Capt.), 12.Kion Joseph, 15.Jesus Perez (Yellow Card), 16.Jairo Lombardo, 17.Vurlon Mills (13.Julio Noel 65th minute), 18.Jevon Morris, 23.Kennedy Hinkson (14.Hayden Tinto 65th minute), 24.Adrian Reid.

Unused substitutes: 30.Shemel Louison (GK), 4.Carlyle Mitchell, 5.Shakiyl Phillip.
 
Coach: Keith Jeffrey

Referee: Rodphin Harris
Assistant Referee 1: Keron Mayers
Assistant Referee 2: Anton Gill
Fourth Official: Oswald Mayers