Trinidad and Tobago national winger Collin Samuel was unsure whether to laugh or cry yesterday after he played superbly on Thursday evening but still had to watch helplessly as his employers, Dundee United, were eliminated from the UEFA Cup by virtue of a 2-2 home draw against visiting Finnish club, MyPa 47.
MyPa advanced to the next round of European competition on the away goals rule, which doubles the value of goals scored away from home, after the Finns held United goalless in the first leg at the Scandinavian country.
Samuel, who had not scored for United in over a year, was caught between personal satisfaction and the club's collective disappointment as he spoke to the Trinidad Express on Friday afternoon.
"It was definitely my best game for the season," said Samuel, who played on the right side of the United midfield. "I did everything the manager asked, which was to be positive and to create chances. I felt we had an outstanding first half when we passed them off the park and I still can't believe we (failed to advance)."
The draw cost Samuel and his teammates a hefty $67,643 win bonus (£6,000) while United supporters were deprived of the thrill of more European nights-a first for the club since ex-T&T international Jerren Nixon inspired United to a UEFA Cup berth in the 1992/93 season.
United, who briefly employed Trinidad and Tobago football icon Russell Latapy in 2003, has been a happy host for T&T talent with mutual benefits.
National striker Jason Scotland, who sat in United players' lounge on Thursday night alongside compatriot and Dundee goalkeeper Kelvin Jack, scored the goal that took United to Europe last season before he was controversially denied a work permit to remain with the Tayside club. While Scotland was an instant hit for "The Tangerines", Samuel struggled to match the hype that preceded his arrival following a freescoring season in the Scottish First Division with former club, Falkirk, and was told to find a new club by ex-United manager, Ian McCall, in January.
This season, McCall's successor, Gordon Chisholm, returned the converted striker to his preferred wide position and he reaped early dividends for his faith on Thursday as Samuel made a fiery start in the cold conditions. Samuel, a former Mayaro Composite and CL Financial San Juan Jabloteh utility player, just missed the far post with a strike on the break in the 14th minute as his pace constantly troubled MyPa left back, Tuomo Kononen.
A minute later, Kononen conceded a free kick that led to United's opener as Mark Kerr drove home from the edge of the area after the Finnish defence failed to clear Mark Wilson's set piece.
Samuel doubled their advantage in the 29th minute with a composed finish after charging inside the penalty area to side foot a Barry Robson cross past opposing goalkeeper Janne Korhonen.
However, MyPa grabbed a lifeline in the 74th minute when Adriano pulled one back from the penalty spot and the Brazilian broke the United offside trap to draw the visitors level in the 81st minute. Samuel had already been withdrawn from the match by that stage-he was substituted to a rousing ovation, seconds after Adriano's first item.
Chisholm had no answer for the late "Finnish." Samuel hopes to build on his own performance, though.
"I am trying to meet a target of 10 goals or more this season," he said. "I had a real hard time for the last two seasons so I just want to make it much better for myself than it was last year."
He confessed that next week's crucial World Cup qualifier against Guatemala was at the forefront of his mind.
"We have to run ours balls off," said Samuel. "(Leo) Beenhakker has been telling us that we are not far off from the other teams but we just have to put in a little more effort. I just want to put my best foot forward and hopefully we will get a result."