Central finishes second in DPL to qualify for CFU Club Championship

Central FC forward Willis Plaza, centre, against St. Ann’s Rangers in their Round Two clash of the Digicel Pro League.

Central FC hurdled Defence Force by goal-difference on Tuesday night to finish second in the 2013-2014 Digicel Pro League and qualify for next season’s Caribbean Football Union (CFU) Club Championship, which also serves as the qualifying tournament to the Concacaf Champions League.

The Terry Fenwick coached-Central whipped cellar-positioned St. Ann’s Rangers 3-0 at the Ato Boldon Stadium, while simultaneously at the Hasely Crawford Stadium, Defence Force, needing just a draw against Jabloteh, surrendered to a 1-0 defeat against the San Juan club.

A 2nd minute Neil Mitchell goal ended a courageous run by the army/coastguard combination, which finished third.

While in Couva, a second half double Trinidad and Tobago forward Willis Plaza and an opening goal his international teammate Rundell Winchester secured the valuable win for Central.

Central and Defence Force finished with 45 points from their 24 matches, but the "Sharks'" superior goal difference meant that Fenwick's side joins bitter Couva rivals W Connection to represent Trinidad and Tobago in 2015 CFU Club Championship.

An elated Fenwick said, “In only our second season, what an achievement [it is] to beat good teams like Defence Force, who had an up and down season because of their issues off the field. Also Caledonia ... teams that have been established in the league.

“For us to finish second is a wonderful achievement for the club.

“This goes to show the great job that (Central FC managing director) Brent Sancho and (director of operations) Kevin Harrison have done off the field, bringing in some great players in for me to (hammer) into shape and into a team.

“I’m delighted. I’m so pleased because it was our target to get into the Champions League. We would have liked first spot but nevertheless we are congratulating W Connection and we are delighted in ourselves.”

W Connection, who had already secured the league crown and CFU spot on the penultimate day, wrapped up its final league match with a 1-1 draw against Caledonia AIA in the first match of the Round Three Match Day Nine double header at the Couva venue, to finish with 50 points.

The "Savonnetta Boys", also preparing for Friday's (May 16) Digicel Pro Bowl semi-final round clash against Central from 8 pm at the Couva venue, rotated a number of players and fell behind in the 39th minute to a Pernell Schultz item.

But by the 57th minute, Connection's Tobagonian forward Mickaeel Gem Gordon equalised by blasting in a rebound after Caledonia goalkeeper Kevin Graham had made an excellent shutout to deny Neil Benjamin.

As for Central FC, a 43rd minute Winchester strike handed the "Sharks" a 1-0 lead before the break after squandering a number of earlier chances.

Winchester, picked out inside the area by an Ataullah Guerra pass following sequence of passes with Keon Trim and Leston Paul, curled a right footer past goalkeeper Akel Clarke and into the far netting.

Clarke, hung out to dry in the 71st minute, was beaten again when Plaza controlled substitute Dwight Quintero's cross and volleyed into the back of the Rangers net for a 2-0 cushion.

Seven minutes later Plaza hooked an effort onto the base of the upright, but by the 80th minute he was celebrating his second on the night and 14th league goal this season.

Plaza, unleashed by a long counterattack pass by Darren Mitchell, slipped past his challenger and into the area before squaring a pass to Quintero on the right, then from the return pass the ace Central forward hit past Clarke for a 3-0 score.

At the Hasely Crawford Stadium North East Stars, who must tackle Rangers in a rescheduled Round Three Match Day Eight fixture on Tuesday 20 May, also registered a comfortable 3-0 win against Police FC.

The Stars, completing the win by the first half, grabbed a double by Under 21 player Tarik Raymond, who scored in the 28th and 40th minutes, and an opening item by Kennedy Hinkson in the 25th minute.

Not a promising result for Police, who must take on Defence Force in the semi-final round of the Pro Bowl on Friday.

2013-2014 Digicel Pro League

Round Three Match Day Nine

W Connection 1—1 Caledonia AIA

Pernell Schultz 39'  ;  Mickaeel Gem Gordon 57'

Police FC 0—3 North East Stars
Kennedy Hinkson 25', Tarik Sampson 28', 40'

Central FC 3—0 St. Ann's Rangers
Rundell Winchester 43', Willis Plaza 71', 80'

Remaining Digicel Pro League fixtures
Tuesday 20 May
North East Stars vs St. Ann’s Rangers
Caledonia AIA vs Point Fortin Civic