Substitute striker Radanfah Abu Bakr gave Trinidad and Tobagos Under 20 footballers a lifeline on Friday night at the Marvin Lee Stadium when he snatched a 80th minute equalizer in a 1-1 draw with Grenada to keep alive this countrys chances of advancing in the Caribbean Football Union Under 20 qualifiers.
Abu Bakrs striker came at a vital time as it seemed the Grenadians, who went ahead from the penalty spot through Shane Rennie in the 55th minute, would hold on for the upset win as both sides struggled to mount favourable attacks on a muddy surface caused by heavy showers before kick off in the earlier match between Guyana and Barbados.
The Guyanese snatched an added on time winner to beat off Barbados 3-2 and set up an exciting last day on Sunday at the same venue. With Barbados meeting T&T in the second game from 6pm and Guyana clashing with Grenada from 4pm, it now means that T&T, with four points now, needs a win to top the group but a draw could also take them through if Guyana loses to Grenada.
T&T striker Kevin Crooks, starting in place of injured out Abiola Sandy, had T&Ts first real look at goal in the 13th minute when his left footer went wide of the mark.
T&T attempted to keep the ball for longer periods but failed to cause any panic at the back for the Grenadians. Clevon George forced goalkeeper Denroy Richardson into pushing his one time shot around the left post after team-mates Devon Maxwell and Ancil Farrier had combined well. Captain Makan Hislop also hit a powerful free kick from inside the penalty box to force the keeper into action.
Grenada then struck against the run of play when a ball played into the area made contact with Karlon Murrays hand and Rennie stepped up to convert the penalty past an otherwise solid Thorne Holder.
Grenada were now prepared to sit back and hold on to the lead but Abu Bakr, more known as a defender, was thrown into the attack by coach Anton Corneal in place of Kevon Neaves in the 74th minute and he made his mark six minutes later.
Keegan Mills swung one over from the right and Abu Bakr, positioned just on the edge of the six yard went up to acrobatically hit home with his right foot. Hislop had one last try for the winner when he shot from an indirect free kick but the keeper pushed out to ensure a share of points.
Abu Bakr, a player with Queens Royal College and Arima Morvant Fire was ecstatic with the goal, and so were his family members looking on from the stands.
It was a great experience for me and I thanked the coach for putting the trust in me and then I just put the trust in the most high, Abu Bakr told TTFF Media moments after the match. I didnt expect to go out at that stage of the match as a striker but whatever was coming my way I wanted to go out and give it my best shot. My family was here and they always support me so it was a really nice experience and I hope there will be many more to follow, Bakr added. T&T coach Anton Corneal said T&T would now being going all out for a win against Barbados. I thought some of our players didnt step up meaning that when they were out of their norm, they didnt try to do something different to adapt to the way the game was going. We struggled on the sides and even though we kept good possession it was far from making it dangerous for the other team, Corneal told TTFF Media. People were saying that we played too many long balls in the first game but we were more dangerous then and I hope that will open the eyes of some of the critics that sometimes you have to go over the top. We wont panic going into Sundays game. We are just going out to be positive and play our football and hopefully come away with the win, Corneal said.
In the earlier match, both teams struggled to settle and both teams had players sent off, with Richard Lavine for Barbados and Kelvin Smith for Guyana being ejected in the first half for dangerous play. Konata Mannings put Guyana ahead in the 7th minute and Edison Gomes then doubled that lead in the 54th. But Barbados fought back and got a goal in the 71st minute when Lionel Paul scored with a volley and then he tied the scores in the 76th minute, squeezing one past goalkeeper Derrol Dainty from close range. But just when it seemed the game would end in a stalemate, substitute Francis Primo unleashed a low shot from atop the box which went straight through keeper Kareem Farrell to give Guyana the win which pushed them to three points same as Barbados with Grenada on one.