Naparima College strengthened its chances of retaining the Premiership Division title of the Secondary Schools Football League (SSFL) by delivering a lethal blow to hearts of St Anthony's College Tigers 3-2 at West moorings on Wednesday.
But Naps coach Angus Eve said it was far from smooth sailing for them with arch-rivals Presentation College, among many teams that cannot be taken for granted, still to play. The southerners have now moved to 23 points atop the standings, while Presentation College takes second with a 3-1 triumph over St Augustine which took them to 19 points.
In an evenly contested match in front of their home crowd, the Tigers settled quickly, producing an exhibition of attractive, fluent-passing football that almost earned them the opening goal in the second minute.
Jean-Heim Mc Fee was picked out unmarked in the centre of the area, following a neat build-up on the right side, but his snapshot just whisked past the Naparima goal.
However, minutes later, the visitors felt they were robbed when defender Ian Cowie's attempt to clear the ball from a Naps' build-up struck his hands, but the referee waved play-on in the face of screaming Naparima fans for a penalty.
The Tigers continued to enjoy most of the ball in the minutes that followed, but it was the visitors who took the lead in the 29th minute. From another build-up down the left side, Atiba Lewis found himself at the end of a neatly floated ball, but his one-time shot cannoned off a defender before Shoaib Khan rifled the rebound up into the roof of the St Anthony's goal for a 1-0 advantage.
But their lead lasted just four minutes before the Tigers equalized. From a corner on the right side that appeared to have been over-hit, Darius Douglas headed the ball back across the goal area for Randy Antoine to meet nicely on the head, a second time, past Levi Fernandez in the Naparima goal.
The team went to the half-time interval at one-apiece, but Angus Eve's Naps was a changed side when the match resumed. Seven minutes after the restart, the visitors snatched the lead for yet another time.
Isa Bramble, who taunted the Tigers defenders for most of the first half, showed tremendous pace to reach Khan's through ball, and he skilfully lifted the ball over the onrushing goalkeeper Josiah Perez for a 2-1 lead.
The southerners then took control of the match, for the first time, forcing the vicious Tigers to chase the ball for the early moments. And out of nothing Bramble's pace help his team go two-goals up in the 58th minute.
The lanky winger was on to a loose ball in the St Anthony's area in a flash, before quickly releasing to Kodel Frontin, who later found an unmarked Seon Shippley in the centre. And with no one closeby, the latter unleashed a powerful low shot that beat the Perez low to the right side of his goal.
The Tigers did not give up and was rewarded for their persistence late in the encounter. Zion Williams, who had been a handful for the Naps backline all game long, delivered perfectly in the 92nd minute for substitute Jelani King to head home. The Tigers then tried in vain for the equalize, but it was too late.
Meanwhile, at Trinity East Ground in Arouca, Nathaniel James and Jaheim Granderson both scored braces to guide Queen's Royal College to a 4-1 victory over the home team. And over at San Juan Ground, the home team routed St Mary's College 7-0, courtesy a beaver-trick by Isaiah Chase, and other goals from Malik Farrier, Keanu John and Christon Mitchell.
Over in Tobago, national under-15 defender Keilon Burnette scored twice to lead his team to a 4-2 win over Speyside. The other scorers were Resean Britto and Josiah King.
Carapichaima 4 (Josiah King, Resean Britto, Keilon Burnette 2) vs Speyside 2
QRC 4 (Nathaniel James 2, Jahiem Granderson) vs Trinity East 1
Presentation 3 vs St Augustine 1
Malick 1 (Jabari Williams) vs St Benedict's 1 (Jaheim Joseph)
San Juan North 7 (Isaiah Chase 4, Malik Farrier, Keanu John, Christon Mitchell) vs CIC 0
East Mucurapo 3 (Daniel David, Jelani Farary, Malachai Celestine) vs Pleasantville 0
Naps 3 (Shoaib Khan, Isa Bramble, Seon Shippley) vs St Anthony's 2 (Randy Antoine, Jelani King)
3*Carapichaima East Secondary*8*5*0*3*16*9*+7*18
4*St. Anthony's College*8*5*1*2*24*10*+14*17
5*East Mucurapo Secondary*8*4*1*3*17*8*+9*15
6*Queen's Royal College*8*4*3*1*14*17*-3*13
7*San Juan North Secondary*8*3*4*1*19*7*+12*10
10*Trinity College East*8*2*5*2*13*18*-5*8
11*Speyside High School*8*2*4*2*11*23*-12*8
12*St. Augustine Secondary*8*1*3*4*15*16*-1*7
13*St. Benedict's College*8*2*5*1*8*16*-8*7
14*Trinity College, Moka*8*1*6*1*8*27*-19*4
15*St. Mary's College*9*1*7*1*5*27*-22*4