|Bermuda||Trinidad & Tobago|
|Darryl Roberts (9')|
Stern John (66')
World Cup Qualifier
|2008-06-22||Bermuda National Stadium||Prospect, Bermuda||5000|
T&T coach rings changes for qualifying victory
Coach Francisco Maturana might have been lynched for the changes he made had Trinidad and Tobago not come out with a positive result from the World Cup qualifier against Bermuda on Sunday night in Hamilton.The Colombian showed his steel and made brave changes, relegating England-based professionals Stern John (Southampton) and Jason Scotland (Swansea) to the bench, while dumping Walsall goalkeeper Clayton Ince altogether in favour of local boy Jan Michael Williams.
John and Scotland were both top scorers for their respective clubs in the English leagues last season, while Ince has an incredible clean-sheet record for his club.
In all, Maturana made five changes to the team which went down 1-2 to Bermuda in the first leg on June 15 at the Marvin Lee Stadium, Macoya. It all worked perfectly and, like Midas, everything Maturana touched turned to "goal", T&T winning 2-0 in the return leg and moving onto the next round of qualifying with a 3-2 aggregate victory.
Assistant coach Anton Corneal feels that Maturana, who has been heavily criticised recently, might have answered some of his detractors with his decision to stick with the locally-based players at this stage of the campaign.
"I think people have to give the coach far more credit now, because he decided to go with the players he felt would be best against these opponents. I think it all worked quite well," said Corneal.
Maturana's changes resulted in a measured, tactical game as Trinidad and Tobago controlled the match, pinning back the Bermudans and opening them up with precise passes and quick flicks. The crowd of 5,000 at the National Sports Centre in Hamilton was supposed to be Bermuda's 12th man, according to the local newspapers, but they were soon silenced.
Indeed, it was the "Trini Posse" who were jumping. Some, like 71-year-old former national coach Ken Henry, had flown in from the United States, while a man from Point Fortin was proud to support the Soca Warriors although he has lived for 30 years in Bermuda.
The Trinidad and Tobago fans carried a large flag, had their faces painted in the national colours and proudly sang "I'm ah Soca Warrior" from the start to the end of the game. While they celebrated, the rest of the National Sports Centre went dead in the eighth minute, though, when Darryl Roberts scored for the visitors.
Taking Keon Daniel's pass at the top of the six-yard box, Roberts turned skilfully past Bermuda defender Kofi Dill and put the ball over the head of keeper Timmy Figureido. Roberts absolutely tormented Dill and had it not been for Figureido's brilliance, Bermuda might have been at the wrong end of a big score.
Figureido brought off a brilliant save when tipping away a Dennis Lawrence header and, despite being out of position, also stopped Carlos Edwards scoring in the fourth minute. In the second half, Figureido turned T&T skipper Aurtis Whitley's free-kick around the post, stopped a blast and also turned over a shot from Roberts in the penalty area.
John, who came on at the start of the second half in place of Jerol Forbes, eventually got the goal which gave T&T a 2-0 victory, meeting Daniel's free-kick in the 68th minute with a header into the corner of the net. John later blazed a shot over from inside the box, but Bermuda hardly ever threatened to punish them for that miss.
At the start, Roberts, the former Sparta Rotterdam striker, and United Petrotrin's Forbes provided far more mobile targets than either Scotland and John, who the Bermudans would have worked hard at trying to stop on the training pitch. Afterwards, Roberts said it gave him pride to play for Trinidad and Tobago.
"Every time I step onto the pitch and I wear national colours, I just try to put my best foot forward. Fortunately, I was able to score early and Stern's goal also helped us to get through," he told the Express.
Another of Maturana's changes was starting Defence Force defender Michael Edwards, who had looked super on the training pitch. Brought in at left back, Edwards allowed none of the shenanigans which Damon Ming provided for Bermuda when he regularly drifted by Ancil Farrier in the first leg.
Edwards was flawless and when taken off injured in the 64th minute, he was replaced by Kern Cupid, who redeemed himself appreciably for a horrible showing against England earlier this month.
At right back, Osei Telesford was also rightly shifted back to defence where he first made his mark at national level last year at the Digicel Caribbean Cup. But, by far the bravest of Maturana's changes was replacing the solid but slightly overweight Ince with a far more agile Williams, who was in ripping form in training.
Williams was hardly troubled, but competently handled everything that came his way. The speed of a Kevon Carter would also have further unhinged the Bermudans, but with Carlos Edwards playing his game, there was no place for Carter.
Carlos Edwards finally played like Carlos can since coming back from English Premier League club Sunderland. Indeed, it was good to see him dropping back at the last minute to cut out a pass which would have put Kwame Steede through at the edge of the T&T defence had it not been intercepted.
And Khano Smith, who had set up Bermuda's first goal at the Marvin Lee Stadium the week before, was a non-entity in Sunday's game because Carlos did his defensive work. Carlos Edwards also destroyed Bermuda in attack, drifting by one, two, sometimes three tackles. His one fault in Hamilton was missing a couple of scoring chances.
Bermuda also shot themselves in the foot a bit by presenting a golf course-type pitch which, with a little moisture in it, provided a perfect dribbler's surface for the likes of Roberts, Daniel, Carlos Edwards and Khaleem Hyland. And, for much of the match, Bermuda were chasing shadows.
It was also a delight to see Daniel finally learning to aggressively take the attack up the flank and whipping in dangerous crosses with his left foot. But he still needs to remain in the game for 90 minutes as he did fall away in the second half. And also to adopt an attitude that he must consistently tackle when players are in his vicinity in the midfield.
Daniel let Bermudans pass by, but against Guatemala, the United States and Cuba in the next round of World Cup qualifying, such inaction will end in goals conceded. Overall, it was a job well done in Bermuda. But the Soca Warriors will need to step up again if they are to get out of the upcoming third or semi-final round on the road to South Africa.
Of the match venue, Bermuda is a beautiful place, with lovely, friendly people like Louise and Dale Bridgeman, who hosted me at Lou & Dale in Paget. But, the "Gombey Warriors" are not yet as good at the beautiful game as the United States, Guatemala or even Cuba, who we meet in the next round.
|64' Kern Cupid|
|4.||Makan Hislop 42 '|
|9.||Aurtis Whitley (capt.) 59 '|
|46' Stern John|
|89' Stephan David|
|46'||Stern John for Jerol Forbes|
|64'||Kern Cupid for Michael Edwards|
|89'||Stephan David for Darryl Roberts|