Strong Caledonia start at CFU Club Championship while Defence Force face elimination

Caledonia midfielders Tyrone Charles (#16) and Ralph Lundy (#10) during domestic Digicel Pro League action this season
Caledonia AIA stamped its authority on Group 2 of the 2014 Caribbean Football Union's Club Championship with a comfortable 3-0 win over group hosts Association Sportive de Mirebalais on Friday at the Mirebalais Stadium in Haiti.

The 2012 Caribbean champions put aside its domestic troubles in the Digicel Pro League to score twice in the first half, through goals by striker Keyon Edwards and defender Nuru Adulllah Muhammad, before sealing the victory with a late goal from substitute winger Tyrone Charles.

But across in Group 3, hosted in Jamaica, fellow Trinidadian club and last season’s Digicel Pro League champions Defence Force, grinding domestic hitches, were defeated 2-0 by Guyana’s Alpha United at the Habour View Stadium.

Ironically Alpha are equipped with a number of former TT Pro League players such as Dwight Peters, Dwain Jacobs, Grenadian Kithson Bain (Caledonia) and Gregory Richardson (Joe Public).

Alpha’s coach Wayne Dover is also a former assistant to Caledonia coach Jamaal Shabazz. He served alongside Shabazz during the Trinidadian’s time in charge of the Guyana Men’s Senior Team, and had a stint with the Caledonia coaching staff.

Alpha scored on either side of the half against Defence Force with Andre Murray scoring in the 20th minute and Bain, who represented Caledonia last year, completed the scoring in the 48th minute.

The four-time successive Guyana league champions, who made the 2011/2012 Concacaf Champions League, stands atop the three-team Group 3 following a late pull-out by Surinamese outfit Sporting Vereniging Notch.

As a result of their withdrawal, CFU levied a fine of US$51,269.44 against Notch in keeping with Article IV B (2) and Article IV B (5), which must be paid within seven days of the club’s official withdrawal. Additionally, the Surinamese club could face other sanctions according to the CFU.

Alpha will next face home-team and defending Red Stripe Premier League champions Habour View on Sunday, and a win for the Guyanese outfit will secure a top of the group finish and a spot in the Club Championship semi-final round.

Habour View and last season’s Champions League outfit, Defence Force, will meet on Tuesday to complete the group phase.

While Caledonia, gunning for its third consecutive qualification into the Champions League, will next face Suriname’s Inter Moengotapoe on Sunday, and against Jamaica’s Waterhouse FC on Tuesday.

The Morvant/Laventille club's roster is depleted without defender Aubrey David, who joined Finland's FF Jaro on loan, while midfielder Akim Armstrong and forward Jamal Gay are both on trials in that country.

Against Mirebalais, Edwards headed Caledonia in front, 1-0, by the 21st minute off a Nathan Lewis cross. Shabazz’s side doubled its advantage, 2-0, by the 32nd minute when defender Muhammad flicked in a Ralph Lundy free-kick, and eight minutes from time Charles’ trademark free-kick around the wall and into the back of the net made it 3-0.

"(We are) happy to get a winning start against the host club and impressed with the way our team kept their nerve after torrid early pressure from the opponents,” said Shabazz. “(Our players) are showing a kind of focus and commitment that augurs well for our ambition to top the group. Our challenge going into the match against the Suriname club is to strive for consistency.”

Caledonia AIA—Shemel Louison (GK), Kareem Joseph, Akeem Thomas, Nuru Abdullah Muhammad, Marcus Ambrose. Nathan Lewis, Stephan David, Densill Theobald, Noel Williams (Keron Bethelmy), Ralph Lundy (Tyrone Charles) and Keyon Edwards (Pernell Schultz).

Unused substitutes—Nical Stephens, Julian Wade, Raymond Alleyne and Kevin Graham (GK).

Caribbean Football Union (CFU) Club Championship 2014
Day One Results, Friday 21 March
Group 1
Juan Ramon Loubriel Stadium, Puerto Rico
Centro Dominguito 0—0 Unite Saint Rosienne
Bayamon FC 5—0 Bodden Town

Group 2
Mirebalais Stadium, Haiti
Waterhouse FC 4—0 Inter Moengoetapoe
Caledonia AIA 3—0 Association Sportive de Mirebalais

Group 3
Harbour View Stadium, Jamaica
Alpha United 2—0 Defence Force