Rangers hold Defence Force 1-1 in exciting Digicel Pro League opener

Debuting Ranger: Argentina-born midfielder Miguel Romeo (right), pictured during a training session with teammate Jemel Berot, scored on debut to earn St. Ann’s Rangers a 1-1 draw with Defence Force in their opening clash of the 2015-2016 Digicel Pro League.
Friday 25 September 2015

Hasely Crawford Stadium, PORT of SPAIN – St. Ann’s Rangers picked up a positive start to their 2015-2016 Digicel Pro League campaign by holding last season’s third-place finishers Defence Force to a 1-1 draw in Friday’s opener.

A stunning strike in the 45th minute by debuting Argentina-born midfielder Miguel Romeo handed Rangers the lead and it didn’t come as a shock.

Despite losing the lead a minute and a half into stoppage-time of the first half, there was an early sense of improvement in Rangers, now headed by coach Angus Eve.

Rangers’ bubble of joy was popped by veteran Defence Force midfielder, Jerwyn Balthazar, who levelled the scores 1-1 before heading into the dressing rooms at the break.

Balthazar, who bundled the ball into pre-season-signed goalkeeper Stephan Berkeley’s, was one of two Defence Force players attacking a well-placed Kerry Joseph right side cross.

Defence Force, who were stunned by Rangers 2-1 in their previous meeting last May, even had an opportunity in the 67th minute from the penalty spot but Berkeley produced an excellent low save to deny the Pro League’s all-time leading scorer Devorn Jorsling.

Referee Crystal Sobers had pointed to the spot after first assistant referee Nicholas Augustus waved for a handball just inside the box against defender Jelani Peters.

However it just wasn’t Defence Force’s night against a side that were determined to prove their worth after finishing last season at rock bottom with just one win in 24 league outings.

Rangers’ midfielder Sayid Freitas, scorer against Defence Force in the previous meeting, provided the first real attempt on Friday in the 20th minute, hitting just wide of goalkeeper Sheldon Clarke’s bottom corner from 24-yards out.

In the 29th minute on the other end, Balthazar had the first attempt on target causing Berkely a bit of problems but the former North East Stars man did well to put it wide.

Then from the resulting corner, swung in by Ross Russell Jr., Defence Force defender Glynn Franklyn headed wide.

Berkeley, who was lucky to see a Stefan Campbell header cleared off his line by defender Sedale Mc Lean, was tested again in the 83rd minute but the equal to a 24-yard Jorsling free-kick, guiding it over.

Berkeley and Romeo were the stars of the night for Rangers, while another newcomer Kevon Piper showed moments of brilliance that, with consistency, could prove very valuable for Eve’s side.

Romeo, entrusted with the captain’s armband, gave everything of himself in the middle, throwing his stocky frame all over the pitch against coach Marvin Gordon’s side.

Romeo, a former Morvant Caledonia United and Central FC player, had swung in a perfectly placed free-kick in the 41st minute only to see Peters head overbar.

The Argentine then took the responsibility onto himself following a short free-kick and spanked a right-footer from around 25-yards to find Clarke’s top corner.

Gordon unleashed former Pro League Player of the Year, Richard Roy at the expense of defensive midfielder Dave Long with 22 minutes on the clock.

But even that failed to produce a Defence Force winner although Roy had two clear looks on goal, failing to even force Berkeley into action on both occasions in the 79th and 90th minutes.

Round One Match Day One action of the 2015-2016 DPL continues on Saturday 26 September with last season’s DPL runners-up, W Connection, hosting Police FC from 4 pm at the Mannie Ramjohn Stadium, and simultaneously at the Larry Gomes Stadium, North East Stars will welcome debutants Club Sando.

Also on Saturday, defending DPL champions Central FC will visit Point Fortin Civic from 6 pm at the Mahaica Oval.

The weekend fixtures will culminate on Sunday 27 September with neighbouring rivals Morvant Caledonia United and San Juan Jabloteh clashing from 4 pm.

Digicel Pro League 2015-2016
Round One Match Day One
Friday’s result at the Hasely Crawford Stadium
Defence Force 1 (Jerwyn Balthazar 45’+2) vs St. Ann’s Rangers 1 (Miguel Romeo 45’)

Upcoming fixtures
Saturday 26 September 2015
Mannie Ramjohn Stadium
W Connection vs Police FC—4 pm

Larry Gomes Stadium
North East Stars vs Club Sando—4 pm

Mahaica Oval
Point Fortin Civic vs Central FC—6 pm

Sunday 27 September 2015
Hasely Crawford Stadium
Morvant Caledonia United vs San Juan Jabloteh—4 pm

Teams on Friday at the Hasely Crawford Stadium between Defence Force and St. Ann’s Rangers
Defence Force: 2.Glynn Franklyn, 4.Dave Long (26.Richard Roy 68th minute), 8.Curtis Gonzales, 9.Devorn Jorsling, 13.Marvin Jones, 17.Ross Russell Jr. (7.Jelani Felix 58th minute), 21.Aklie Edwards, 23.Kerry Joseph (Yellow Card), 25.Sheldon Clarke (GK), 22.Stephan Campbell, 99.Jerwyn Balthazar

Unused substitutes: 6.Rodell Elcock, 12.Jemel Sebro, 16.Kellon Serrette, 18.Sean Narcis, 80.Aaron Enil (GK)

Coach: Marvin Gordon

St. Ann’s Rangers: 1.Stefan Berkeley (GK), 2.Shakiyl Phillip, 3.Ryan O’Neil, 4.Jelani Peters, 5.Miguel Romeo (Capt.), 7.Sedale Mc Lean (14.Jemel Berot 89th minute), 8.Kevon Piper, 10.Samuel Delice (9.Keron Cornwall 57th minute), 16.Ricardo Williams, 19.Rasheed Simon (17.Kadeem Hutchinson 76th minute), 23.Sayid Freitas  

Unused substitutes: 6.Shaquille Moses, 12.Darius Ollivierra, 22.Christopher Biggette (GK), 29.Jameel Antoine

Coach: Angus Eve

Match Officials
Referee: Crystal Sobers
Assistant Referee 1: Nicholas Augustus
Assistant Referee 2: Joseph Bertrand
Fourth Official: Kellon Bacchus