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Trinidad and Tobago’s Under 20 footballers could at least feel a bit more confident after holding their Venezuelan counterparts to a 1-1 draw at the Larry Gomes Stadium on Saturday evening.
And why? Maybe because the Spanish-speaking boys are coming off a 2-0 win over Mexico’s Under 20 national team in another friendly played just over a month ago. The same Mexicans will host the CONCACAF Final round in January and could be future opponents if T&T gets past Jamaica earlier next month.
Apart from that though, missing their influential captain Radanfah Abu Bakr and striker Lester Peltier due to his “Big Six” commitments with CL Financial San Juan Jabloteh, T&T showed a wee bit more promise than their recent CFU preliminary round display, scoring first and conceding in the second half against the visitors.
There were no more than maybe 70 fans at the Stadium, with at least 15 of them being Venezuelans residing in Trinidad and while some questioned the clash in date with the National Intercol Semi-finals at the Hasely Crawford Stadium, the fact is that when these two internationals were finalized, the visitors were only able to play on the chosen dates as they too are preparing for South American qualifiers and are carded to head to Argentina for a training camp in due course. The Secondary Schools League on the other hand already had their fixtures confirmed in advance, even before T&T knew it would have to prepare for the playoffs, and they decided to stick to it.
As for coach Brian Williams, he will be hoping to see more improvements in the second friendly from 5:30pm at Malabar. His team didn’t show all that cohesion and were too shy in front of goal. They however showed intent on matching the hot headed Venezuelans when it came to aggression. Tackles came from all sides and words too even though it was difficult to know for sure who understood what on the field. Referee Phillip Jordan as well as fourth official Russell Casimire could both speak the Spanish language and got reason to eject the Venezuelan manager from the bench. And T&T right back Corneal Thomas was shown marching orders for a forceful challenge on Francisco Colina in the 76th minute, a minute after Venezuela had equalized through Anton Irwin’s glancing header from an incoming free kick.
Before that, T&T kept the ball well and move forward purposeful, at least appearing to show signs of eagerness to go at the Venezuelans.
On eight minutes, Aaron Downing’s ball from the left came back off the crossbar and five minutes later Khaleem Hyland’s bullet from 25 yards out flew into the upper corner for a 1-0 T&T lead.
Then in the 29th minute Keon Daniel’s free kick from the top of the box bounced off goalkeeper Edgar Perez before being scrambled away. Moments before that Guillermo Banquez’s acrobatic attempt had gone over bar for the visitors. Close to the half, T&T custodian Adrian Foncette did well to push over another acrobatic attempt from Irwin who came on in the 42nd minute for the injured Anderson Arias.
As the game progressed in the second half, the players of both teams became more aggressive on and off the ball but on the benches, the visitors flared more while Williams and company kept their cool, rather trying to ensure their players kept their game intact. T&T’s midfield needed to be more involved though and Williams will be looking to get more from debutant Silas Spann who switched to partnering Bartholomew up front after starting in the middle. The latter had T&T’s closest attempt at goal after the break with a volley which was saved on the near left post in the 68th minute.
The muddy conditions only added to the lack of attractive football on the evening. Hopefully both teams will come cleaner and give more to cheer when they clash again on Sunday evening.
After the affair, Venezuelan coach Nelson Carrero revealed that he brought ten players who are sure starters in his team’s qualifying campaign.
“What I saw was two teams of two different styles,” he told TTFF Media via a translator. “We play more touch football and we try to play the ball around you know like the South American way. The Trinidad team plays a more direct game with the long ball like the English style. It was a good test for us and I hope that Trinidad also got something good from the game. We will try to make our game work better for us in the second match tomorrow. We won over Mexico 2-0 about a month ago and we are getting ready for the South American qualifying games later on.”
Williams too will also hope to see the homesters build on this performance.
“We stayed in it and this was the type of game we were expecting. The aggression was there. We still have a few things to work on but we will try to sort it out in the next match and again build for the real test against Jamaica,” added the T&T head coach.

Line-Ups:

T&T Team:
- Adrian Foncette, Marvin James, Corneal Thomas, Larry Bacchus, Atulla Guerra (Elton John), Khaleem Hayland, Keon Daniel, Matthew Bartholomew, Aaron Downing (McKenzie Cadette 78th), Carlyle Mitchell (Dion Peters 69th), Silas Spann.

Subs not used: – Brendon Boucaud, kiel Harlet, Javed Mohammed, Christon Thomas, Kareem Gray, Devon Drayton (out injured).

Venezuela: - Edgar Perez, Roberto Rosales, Jose Yegue, Daniel Benitez, Tamanaco Piedrahita, Wilkinson Rivas (Francisco Colina 46th), Juan Guerra (Jose Velasquez 46th) Tomas Rincon (Erick Perez 70th) Anderson Arias (Anton Irwin 42nd) Guillermo Banquez (Richard Lopez 70th), Oswaldo Rodriguez (Luilly Garcia 46th).

Sub not used: - Tito Rojas.
Soca Warriors Online supporter Patriot Report.
T&T U-20's vs Venezuela - PATRIOT Match Observations.


Well I arrived at the Larry Gomes Stadium around 4:07pm, Just missing the kick-off. There was NO admission but yet still ONLY about 30 people were there, about TEN of them Venezuelans. Note to TTFF - PLEASE try and UNIFY the football calender so that football fans would NOT have to choose between Intercol semi's at the HCS and the Under-20 game at the LGS!!!
Well the first thing I noticed was that T&T were dominating the game and 8-9 of our team were in Venezuela's 1/2 of the field. The pressure continued for the next 5-10 mins and from a foul comitted just outside the Venezuelan penalty box, a free kick was 1/2 cleared by the Venezuelan defence, and fell to T&T's#3, left-sided defender, Marvin James, who rifled a left-footed shot past the dive of the Venezuelan keeper. Goal! T&T led 1-0 Now for the rest of the 1/2, the pattern of play continued with T&T domonating POSSESSION, but rarely creating much clear-cut chances. The Venezuelans, to me, seemed to be taking forever to settle and rarely threatened Adrian Foncette in goal for T&T. The ref turned a blind eye to some VERY robust challenges from BOTH teams, and this would have repercussions later. The 1/2 ended with T&T holding onto the 1-0 lead.
The second half had T&T taking the kick-off, and the crowd had now doubled to about 60. One man said there was a terrible accident on the highway and traffic for so! No sooner had a long, searching ball down our left been made, then the Venezuelans had it back and launched a quick counter attack with some smart 1-2's. Their final touch was horribe though and together with some sturdy defending by T&T and some brilliant saves by Foncette the scoreline remained unchanged...but the pressure eventually paid off! From a free kick situation, there was a mad scramble in the area and a Venezuelan player was able to knock the ball past Foncette. Score now tied at 1-1! Well from here on in, "all hell brokeloose". It was fists flying, man foot flying past face, and more blade pass than Gillette, Schick, personna and Bic put together!!! Yellow card start sharing like peas and eventually T&T right-back, Corneal Thomas was ejected in around the 75th minute for a second yellow when he retaliated with a little TOO obvious elbow. Brian Williams then made some subs, bringing on Dion Peters for Carlyle Mitchell in mid-field, Elton John replaced Guerra and Cadette came on for Aaron Downing. Fonette proved the busier of the 2 keepers in this half and it is HE who kept the scorline at 1-1!
All in all a decent performance by the team, but they will need to step it up next week if we are to beat Jamaica! The players are WAAAY too gun-shy! man looking to pass off the ball just outside the box instead of taking a crack! The forwards tracked back and our midfield tackled well, supporting the defence, which looked fairly well organized EXCEPT when defending free-kicks, as our marking was VERY suspect! But from open play the Venezuelans rarely broke through. From what I saw this afternoon, this Under-20 team will create FEW scoring chances and will be well-advised to play a TIGHT, defensive game in Kingston and play on the break, as we have some speedy players who can take on defences...but they MUST shoot MORE often!!!

Thanks to Shaun Fuentes for the team sheet:-

T&T starting eleven:-

Adrian Foncette #1
Marvin James #3
Corneal Thomas #4
Khaleem Hyland #7
Keon Daniel #8
Matthew Bartholomew #10
Aaron Downing #11
Atulla Guerra #12
Larry Bacchus #13
Carlyle Mitchell #20
Silas Spann #6

Lester Peltier was in the Jabloteh team in action today and so was not available.
I can't make it to tomorrow's game but wish the team the best of luck and hope someone else can post something for me to read when I get back from my own lil sweat in UWI.
As usual, feel free to ask me any questions on anything I may have missed out.