ST BENEDICT'S College have snatched up the first piece of silverware in the 2023 Secondary Schools Football League (SSFL) season, as they won the NGC Cup in a dramatic 4-3 thriller versus Fatima College at the Hasely Crawford Stadium in Mucurapo, on Saturday.
Benedict's, who were the 2022 premier division champs, ran out to a 3-0 lead at the half, thanks to a pair of goals by winger Derrel Garcia, as well as an item from lanky forward Daniel Jones.
Fatima, who are coached by Hutson "Baba" Charles, roared back in the second half against the "Golden Lions" though, cutting the deficit to 3-2 by the 68th minute after goals by substitute Josiah Gobin and national under-17 attacker Michael Chaves. Garcia, who has also represented TT at under-17 level, did the job for coach Randolph Boyce and St Benedict's as he slapped home his hat-trick goal with a polished finish in the 79th minute.
Fatima's Luke Correia responded swiftly to score his team's third goal mere seconds later. However, at the blow of referee Crystal Sobers' final whistle, Benedict's were the jubilant team as they held on to put their hands on the NGC Cup.
Boyce said several of his key players were rested for the encounter.
"It was a good game of football. It was a really nice game," Boyce told Newsday. "It's actually a project we are working on right now and we wanted to test the depth of our squad."
Boyce said Fatima forced Benedict's into errors in the second half with their intense pressing game, but he likes the look of his team's ongoing project.
"We had a young and inexperienced bunch out there," Boyce said. "This project is really for next year and beyond so I'd say we are doing really well so far. This was a very good test ahead of the League season."
In the 2022 SSFL season, Benedict's and Fatima split the national honours. Benedict's defeated Fatima 3-1 in the premier division "Big 4" final, while Fatima got revenge over their southern opponents with a 1-0 win in the Intercol final.
on Saturday, both schools treated the 2,000-strong crowd at the Hasely Crawford Stadium to a spectacle ahead of the new season.