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Armstrong double-up on champs NE Stars
Forward Akim Armstrong’s first-half brace proved enough to earn Central FC a comfortable 2-0 win over North East Stars, the reigning Pro League (PL) champions, at Larry Gomes Stadium in Malabar, Arima last night.
The Stars, less than a shadow of the bunch that celebrated the League title under Derek King last season, fell behind after only two minutes when Armstrong prodded in a Keron Cummings’ cross to belly the back of goalkeeper Glenroy Samuel’s net.
Armstrong grabbed his second on 35 minutes with a cool finish at the back post after Samuel had stretched to his left to spoon out a strike from Duane Muckette. But with Samuel’s defence almost absent and the ball landing in the path of the eventual double-scorer, Central were comfortably in front 2-0.
Armstrong, who joined Central this year from Club Sando, took his tally to four goals in all domestic competitions so far this season for the Couva Sharks, snapping a five-game drought since scoring both goals in a 2-0 won over St. Ann’s Rangers in their opening group play of the First Citizens Cup on June 10.
Central went all the way to celebrate the First Citizens Cup on July 20 with a 4-2 penalty win over Defence Force FC following a 2-2 draw, and today enjoyed a winning start to their 2018 PL campaign against their former coach, Yugoslav-born Zoran Vranes, who returned Trinidad this year as part of North East Stars’ new management’s player development approach.
Central was the sole aggressors throughout the match while North East Stars struggled to test Couva Sharks’ T&T international goalkeeper Marvin Phillip.
Vranes’ side came closest to testing Phillip in the fourth minute when Kyle Bartholomew’s pass from the left picked out Rakim Cabie. A timely challenge, however, stopped Cabie in his tracks but defender Dwight Pope injured his thigh in the process, forcing Central assistant coach Walt Noriega – caretaking in absence of Stern John – into a premature change with Anthony Charles entering play.
Muckette and Cummings scored their goals came from set pieces, and Dominic Douglas' drilled attempt before the break was just wide of its mark.
However, the Couva Sharks convert their chances in the second half, most notably when Samuel denied Cummings at point blank in the 90th minute, getting a glove to the midfielder’s header off a Taryk Sampson cross before substitute Obadele Dickson was denied by the upright on the rebound.
Cabie then made a clearance at the goalmouth to keep out a Muckette strike after Cummings cued up his hardworking midfield partner in stoppage time.
North East Stars may have walked away at the final whistle pleased to avoid a heavier defeat against a star-studded Couva Sharks outfit, but not with a sixth consecutive loss from as many matches in all competitions so far this season. Vranes’ bunch must now train their focus on San Juan Jabloteh, whom they host at the same Larry Gomes Stadium from 4 pm on Tuesday.
Meanwhile, Central FC has started at the top of the standings, moving ahead of Defence Force FC, 4-3 winners over Morvant Caledonia United on Friday night, by goal-difference with their fourth consecutive win in all competitions and sixth victory from seven outings.
Central will look to another three points against Club Sando, in what should be a tougher challenge on Wednesday from 6 pm at the Ato Boldon Stadium.
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