Trinidad and Tobago secured a spot in the Final round of Caribbean Football Union Under 20 qualification towards the 2013 FIFA Under 20 World Cup after putting on an unstoppable first half showing in their 3-0 victory over St Vincent/Grenadines on Sunday night.
Needing an outright win to keep their qualifying chances alive, T&T started well out the blocks and got their opening goal through W Connection midfielder Jomal Williams in the 5th minute. Further goals by Kye West in the 39th and Adan Noel in the 44th minute saw T&T jump to a 3-0 lead going into the half time break.
It was just what head coach Ross Russell was hoping for as the comfortable advantage saw T&T sitting back for much of the second half even as the home side pressed them and went close to pulling a goal back down the final stretch.
The result meant T&T finished Group 4 in second place with six points, same as group winners Suriname who topped the group on goal difference despite losing their final match 2-1 to Guyana on Sunday.
T&T will join hosts Jamaica, Haiti, Puerto Rico, Cuba, Suriname and two yet to be determined teams (following the end of the group in Antigua on Sunday night) in the final CFU round in November from which five teams from the eight-team tournament will advance to the final CONCACAF round in Mexico next February.
For Sunday’s outing, Russell made a couple changes to his start team, introducing West on the left wing and current National Under 17 right wing back Shannon Gomez with US-based goalkeeper John Thomas also coming in. Defender Neil Benjamin was ruled out on two yellow cards.
Like they did in the opening 2-1 win over Guyana, T&T started quickly and seized the early advantage when Damani Richards played a long ball out of the back, finding Dwight Quintero on the left of the penalty box and he squared for the onrushing Williams who took his time to place a right footer into the left of the goal to silence to home fans which occupied the major part of the stands behind T&T’s goal in the first half.
St Vincent tried to hit back soon after and Thomas came up big to block a low close range attempt by Azinho Solomon. The Tobago-born Thomas would go on to produce a tidy showing, making a couple more vital saves and handled the high cross balls with relative ease.
Quintero who started as T&T’s lone forward in the three games went scoreless but not without a couple good efforts. His first was a low diving header that went inches wide of the upright and then when Noel beat his man on the right and crossed, Quintero met the incoming ball but his right footed shot went into touch off the right post.
Another solid performer during the series for T&T was defender Alvin Jones and he almost put T&T 2-0 ahead when his header narrowly missed the crossbar on the half hour mark. Jones, son of former Senior team defender Kelvin Jones and brother of current senior team player Joevin Jones, was T&T’s most reliable player at the back. On Sunday he was called up to make at least two crucial interceptions as the Vincentians pressed for a goal in the second half.
Noel, a W Connection midfielder, was also a force for T&T on the right side and he also went close to doubling T&T’s lead with a free kick from atop the box that struck the cross bar after taking a deflection off a Vincentian defender.
Moments later, he would assist in T&T’s second item which West converted on the near left post from a ball coming across from the right of the box. West is the son of former Miss World Giselle La Ronde West and leaves this month to join Villanova University on a football scholarship.
Five minutes later Noel scored his second assurance goal of the tournament when Xavier Rajpaul started a play near the middle of the half, finding Williams who in turn slipped one through to Noel on the right and he picked his spot well before firing past a hapless Jomo Toppin in goal for St Vincent. The La Brea-born player had scored T&Ts winner in the 2-1 victory over Guyana on Wednesday.
St Vincent didn’t lie down despite trailing by three and created a few anxious moments for their fans and should have punished T&T for some lackluster play as the end of the match approached but Jones and company kept them at bay. Gomez was also impressive for T&T in defence alongside Anthony Charles while skipper Duane Muckette kept things in order in the middle of the park for T&T.
Russell later admitted that while he was delighted to advance to the final round, the road ahead would include intense preparations for the T&T team.
“I’m happy that we came here tonight and got the job done. The first order of business was coming out of the group and we put some pressure on ourselves needing to win here tonight. But the team delivered and hats off to the boys,” Russell told TTFF Media.
“We took care of business in the first half but it showed also that we could have come away from here with nine points if we had the same approach in the second game against Suriname. We need to be more consistent and we also need to play for 90 minutes and more because there was some instances tonight where St Vincent looked like pulling a goal back which could have made the game harder for us.
We have a couple months before the final round and the preparations will have to intensify to bring the team to a level that is sufficient to advance in CONCACAF and move on to the World Cup next year,” Russell added.
The T&T Team will return home at 5:15pm on Monday on a Caribbean Airlines charter flight.
T&T: – 10.John-Ramses Thomas, 2.Anthony Charles, 3.Alvin Jones, 5.Damani Richards, 6.Adan Noel, 8.Duane Muckette (capt), 9.Dwight Quintero (16.Marcus Bernard 70th), 10.Jomal Williams, 11.Xavier Rajpaul, 13.Shannon Gomez, 18.Kye West (15.Shaquille Nesbitt 54th).
Coach: - Ross Russell.
St Vincent: - Jovan Lynch; Azinho Solomon (Nazir McBurnette 46th), Nazron Hoyte (Yellow 69), Jalene Miller (Yellow 37), Vasbert Ledger, Danroy Edwards, Damien John (Lenford Foster 77th), Oalex Anderson, Dennis Prescott (Chavel Cunningham 46th), Jomo Toppin, Akeem Williams.
Coach: - Pete Morris.
GP W T L GF GA GD Pts
Suriname 3 2 0 1 5 2 +3 6
Trinidad & Tobago 3 2 0 1 5 4 +1 6
Guyana 3 1 0 2 4 6 -2 3
St. Vincent 3 1 0 2 3 5 -2 3
Referee: - Valman Bedeau (Grenada).
Attendance: - 2000.