|Iraq||Trinidad & Tobago|
|Stern John (30')|
Stern John (65')
|2004-05-23||The Hawthorns||West Bromwich, England||1464|
Stern sinks Iraq
|Trinidad and Tobago striker Stern John had mixed emotions yesterday evening at the Hawthorns Stadium.|
John's double guided Trinidad and Tobago to a 2-0 win over Iraq and brought his international tally to within three strikes of the 50-goal mark.
But his expulsion for violently reacting to a crude Emad Aoda tackle contributed to a nervous closing 25 minutes for the Caribbean tourists.
"It was real uncharacteristic for me," said the Birmingham City striker. "I am disappointed with myself and I apologised to the guys after."
It was a bittersweet afternoon for the men in red, white and black strip.
For the third time in four internationals since Bertille St Clair was appointed head coach in January, it was his assistant, Ron La Forest, who took charge after St Clair complained about feeling unwell.
La Forest, a former Joe Public and national youth team coach, also presided over a win and draw respectively away to Bermuda and was happy to maintain his good form on the bench.
"This victory means a lot for us," La Forest told the Trinidad Express, "because we are just getting our campaign started and it gives us something to carry forward."
In retrospect, the Iraqis were perfect opponents.
Purposeful, steady and blunt, the Middle Eastern outfit forced the "Soca Warriors" to work hard but lacked the quality to break them down.
Reports that the outing against T&T was their first since the United States invasion were wide of the mark.
Although their domestic competition is suspended, Iraq, who are ranked 43rd in the world,Â have already started their 2006 World Cup qualifying campaign and played three times this year including a 2-0 defeat to Japan in Tokyo.
Their under-23 squad has also booked a place in the 2004 Olympic Games.
Iraq started the match positively and striker Hussam Fawzi shot wide in the 12th minute following a Mahdi Karim through pass, which deceived T&T sweeper Ian Cox.
It was a rare error from the 33-year-old England-born central defender who made his debut four years ago under St Clair.
His agility and composure proved an adequate foil for theÂ uncompromising Scotland-based defensive pair of Brent Sancho and Marvin Andrews.
At the interval, La Forest switched to a back four and pushed Cox into a defensive midfield role and the transition was seamless.
It was not nearly as fluent up front where John and North East Stars striker Jerren Nixon did not look as though they were in the same time zone let alone the same squad.
Still, the two strikers combined for the opener in the 30th minute.
A deft release from another returning veteran Arnold Dwarika, who now plays for Chinese club Beijing Guoan, sent Nixon clear and, as he dribbled Iraqi custodian Saad Nassir, the ball rolled obligingly for John to fire home.
There was a penalty shout, three minutes before the interval, when the Iraqis complained that Andrews used his arm to charge down an effort from Qusai Hashim.
But the Warriors never looked like conceding despite the vociferous backing of the Iraqi supporters who dwarfed the Caribbean contingent in the audience of 1,464 spectators.
Twenty minutes into the second half, John doubled the advantage with another clinical finish after a Dwarika pass.
Dwarika had joined John upfront by that stage as La Forest restructured the outfit at the interval.
New Southampton signing, Kenwyne Jones, replaced Nixon for his debut in central midfield-he got his first international taste under Hannibal Najjar-while England-born teenager Andre Bocaud also got his first cap after swapping places with the tidy Kerwin Jemmott.
By then, La Forest had changed 3-5-2 to a 4-4-2 system that offered more security on either flank.
Then came John's rush of blood.
Referee Mark Halsey, an experienced English Premier League official, had already whistled for an infringement on the striker when he took matters into his own hands.
John insisted that he pushed Aoda in the chest although the defender grabbed his face and rolledÂ as though he was punched.
La Forest responded to the setbackÂ by introducing lanky stopper Dennis Lawrence and bustling left back Marlon Rojas as T&T switched toÂ five defenders to preserve their advantage.
At the final whistle, a satisfied La Forest and technical director Lincoln "Tiger" Phillips had few complaints.
"Obviously we are just building so we are not on top of our game just yet," said Phillips. "But I think we are improving We kept the ball more and I think our defence was quite good."
He would hope to carry their form into their next outing against Scotland on May 30.
TT: Clayton Ince; Ian Cox, Marvin Andrews, Brent Sancho; Carlos Edwards, Stokely Mason (Dennis Lawrence 73); Angus Eve (Marlon Rojas 86), Kerwin Jemmott (Andre Boucaud 61), Arnold Dwarika; Jerren Nixon (Kenwyne Jones 46), Stern John [Red Card 65].
|Angus Eve (capt.)|
|86' Marlon Rojas|
|61' Andre Boucaud|
|73' Dennis Lawrence|
|Stern John 65 '|
|46' Kenwyne Jones|
|Ron La Forest|
|46'||Kenwyne Jones for Jerren Nixon|
|61'||Andre Boucaud for Kerwin Jemmott|
|73'||Dennis Lawrence for Stokely Mason|
|86'||Marlon Rojas for Angus Eve|