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Central FC picked up from where it left off last season as defender Andre Ettienne rewarded his new employers with a match-winning goal in a 1-0 win to dethrone three-time holders W Connection to lift the 2015/2016 season opener, Digicel Charity Shield at the Ato Boldon Stadium, Couva on Friday night.

The win handed Central, last season’s seven-title winners, their first ever Charity Shield after coming up short in the encounter against the same opponents last year, by the same 1-0 margin. It was also retribution for new Central FC coach Ross Russell, who was on the losing end as Defence Force coach, 2-0 and 4-2 in the 2012 and 2013 Charity Shield, respectively.

W Connection, who had two decent attempts in the opening moments, had an excellent opportunity to take the lead in the 24th minute after midfielder Jomal Williams was tripped in the Centr­al box by Kaydion Gabriel, forcing match referee Rodphin Harris to point to the spot, however defender and captain Alvin Jones struck over from the penalty spot, failing to trouble Central goalkeeper Jan-Michael Williams,

Then Plaza, set free behind the defence by a classic Marvin Oliver pass, wasted his strike in the 34th minute with Archibald at his mercy as he fired straight at the W Connection and St Kitts/Nevis international before teammate Joseph rattled the upright from distance a minute later. Just before the interval, W Connection almost took the lead, but with Williams beaten, defender Kaydien Gabriel was on spot to make a goal line clearence.

On the resumption both teams struggled to gain the upper hand until Central FC took the lead in the 69th minute with what turned out to be the decisive item from an unlikely source. The 25-year-old Ettienne took time in settling himself before spanking a low strike from the top of a crowded 18-yard box to find Archibald’s bottom right corner following a right side corner swung in by substitute Jason Marcano.

Speaking after the match a delighted Russell said, “I feel honoured. I made it to the Charity Shield twice before and lost. Now I have won it over the same club that beat me twice. I am confident now to go forward and do my job. “I’ve adopted a winning team that won four major titles last season but lost this one. Now it’s good that the players came back this season to win it.”

Russell also made it into the history books of Central FC by kicking off his tenure with a title in his very first domestic match as coach of the “Couva Sharks” while becoming the only coach to avoid defeat in his first “Couva Clasico” against rival club W Connection – something previous Central FC coaches Graham Rix, Terry Fenwick and Zoran Vranes were unable to achieve. Fenwick and Vranes were present at the Couva venue and witnessed Russell’s win.

Central won four major titles (First Citizens Cup, Digicel Pro League, Caribbean Club Championship and Digicel Pro Bowl) and the Rawle Fletcher, Akeem Adams and Kevon Carter trophies for winning each round of the league and now their title ways have rolled over on the domestic front at the start of the 2015/2016 season.

With regards to his new signing Ettienne, Russell: “Since he arrived at the club he has been brilliant. He is a great striker of the ball and tonight he had a go at it and he scored. I am very happy for him. He got ‘Most Valuable Player’ of the match and it’s another good boost on his head. A new boy coming to the club and he is already winning stuff.”

Central and W Connection will refocus on the for their second leg matches of the 2015/2016 Concacaf Champions League before the start of the 2015/2016 Digicel Pro League later this month.

W Connection will tackle Saprissa of Costa Rica on Wednesday before wrapping up their Group A fixtures against Mexico’s Santos Laguna on September 22 while Central must host Guatemala’s Comunicaciones on Thursday then LA Galaxy of the USA September 23 to complete their Group D fixtures. All matches are hosted at the Hasely Crawford Stadium, Mucurapo.

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