W CONNECTION signalled their intentions for the 2018 TT Pro League season when they routed North East Stars 7-1 in the Charity Shield at the Ato Boldon Stadium, Couva on Friday. The Shield features the respective winners of the 2017 Pro Bowl and League competitions.
National striker Marcus Joseph netted a hat-trick, with Suriname’s Dimitri Apai, Kadeem Corbin, Dominica’s Briel Thomas and Adan Noel chipping in with one apiece.
TT youth team striker Jaden Prowell netted a second half penalty for a Stars outfit who looked a shadow of the team that captured the League crown last season.
Financial constraints have resulted in Stars implementing a wage structure, with their top players receiving an estimated maximum of $3,000 per month. Only goalkeepers Glenroy Samuel, Javon Sample, captain Sean Bateau and midfielder Hayden Tinto have previous experience at this level.
Connection showed no mercy on their overmatched opponents, as Joseph opened the scoring in the eighth minute with a low shot beyond the reach of Samuel.
Joseph netted his second goal on the half-hour mark. Kierron Mason, a member of Shiva Boys’ 2017 Intercol squad, played a diagonal ball to veteran left-back Kurt Frederick, whose cross was expertly finished by Joseph.
Four minutes later, Samuel totally missed his kick from a back-pass by right-back Jabari Brathwaite, and Apai pounced on the loose ball to finish from close range.
Joseph completed his hat-trick two minutes into the second half with a left-footed shot from a through ball.
Samuel, who had a rough outing, meekly punched a cross from the right by Daniel Diaz to the path of Corbin whose shot took a deflection before finding the back of the net, in the 50th minute.
Stars coach Zoran Vranes took Samuel out of his misery and brought in Sample, but the goalscoring avalanche continued.
Frederick’s 61st minute corner, from the right, was flicked by Apai towards Thomas, who volleyed home from inside the penalty box.
Noel, who came on for Diaz in the 54th, got his name on the scoresheet with an angled right-footed shot 15 minutes later.
Out of the blue, Stars were awarded a penalty by referee Rodphin Harris, in the 70th minute, as Tinto sent a through ball to Prowell and the striker was taken down by defender Maurice Ford.
And Prowell neatly converted the penalty, sending goalkeeper Jason Belfon the wrong way, with his left-footed effort.
In related news, the First Citizens Cup will begin this weekend, with the match-ups to be determined on Wednesday.