Trinidad and Tobago's Olympic hopefuls managed to do what their senior counterparts could not: beat Finland.
Striker Jamal Gay thumped in the only goal of the match in the 47th minute past Finnish goalkeeper Jesse Joronen to earn T&T the slender 1-0 win at the Dwight Yorke Stadium yesterday.
It was a deserving scoreline as T&T created the greater number of chances and defended more doggedly at the back.
Finland caused the Under-23 side some nervous moments towards the end of the match, but the locals kept their cool by possessing the football and outpacing their opponents with good counter-attacks.
It was not a perfect showing from the young T&T players—even without the presence of Sean De Silva, who played for the senior team against Finland on Sunday—but it was enough to suggest that coach Angus Eve's men could prove strong contenders in the Olympic final round CONCACAF qualifiers ahead.
Early on, T&T had more chances, but the Finns, the better ones. However, either side could break the deadlock before half-time.
Midfielder Kevin Molino and winger Micah Lewis created a host of chances, while goalkeeper Andre Marchan was also instrumental in that 0-0 score at the break, having made a couple key saves.
Gay was kept largely quiet in that period, as the Finns double teamed and triple teamed him. But Lewis made a nuisance of himself down the right flank, whipping by his marker on a number of occasions, while Molino too was a handful coming down the centre to create chances.
T&T's best efforts came from shots outside the penalty area, but Mekeil Williams booted over early on, while Jayson Joseph forced goalkeeper Joronen to punch away.
Finland looked very dangerous on the counter attack, and it took a point blank, reflex save from Marchan in the 22nd to deny the visitors the lead.
They also had two free kicks float wide and a last ditch tackle from Kareem Moses on Sabastian Mannstrom deny them first blood before the interval.
But the small "Dwight Yorke" crowd erupted when Gay finally broke the shackles just two minutes after the resumption.
Molino was the provider, chipping the ball forward with T&T attacking in numbers. Joronen advanced, but could not collect the effort. Gay pounced on the rebound and stabbed home on the second try.
Molino had a case for penalty in the 56th but Jamaican referee Kevin Morrison was unmoved, while Trevin Caesar had a chance to double the advantage, but failed to beat Joronen in one-on-one play.
Finland made two substitutions, with Mika Aaritalo and Berat Sadik replacing Joni Kauko and Juha Hakola. Those changes nearly paid off, but Aaritalo and Akseli Pelvas were both blocked from shots 12 metres away from the T&T goal.
Another second half sub, Kasper Hamalainen, who scored in Finland's 3-2 win over the senior national team, headed low and wide in the 76th.
As the clock wound down, Finland grew more desperate. But the T&T defence stood up to all the Scandinavians threw at them.
T&T late substitute Kaydion Gabriel nearly added the insurance goal, stinging Joronen's palms after a neat build-up.
But their fighting spirit earned the young T&T players not only bragging rights, but a great confidence-boosting win in what are sure to be testing final round qualifiers in the US in March.
Gay's goal gives U-23s win over Finland.
By: Shaun Fuentes (TTFF).
Jamal Gay’s 47th minute goal gave Trinidad and Tobago’s Olympic Men a 1-0 victory over Finland’s Senior team in Wednesday’s encounter at the Dwight Yorke Stadium, Bacolet.
Using the affair as a tune up for the CONCACAF Olympic final round in March, T&T looked a more cohesive unit than the T&T Seniors but had to put up a strong resistance in the second half as the visitors tried to avoid the defeat.
Finland head coach Mixu Paatelainen applauded Gay for the way he took the goal, describing it as one of those decisive moments that brings home a result.
Midfielder Kevin Molino and Micah Lewis proved to be T&T’s two dangerous men in attack and Molino was instrumental in the goal, chipping into the area and Gay, using his strong presence, held off his man to follow up on his initial try and bury the rebound past Fulham goalkeeper Jesse Joronen.
Jayson Joseph had earlier forced Joronen to pull off a good save to his left to deny the home side. Kasper Hamalainen also tested Andre Marchan in goal while Akseli Pelvas fired over bar from near the penalty spot. Hamalainen also had a header miss the target.
With T&T holding its own at the back, substitute Kaydion Gabriel almost doubled the lead at the other end but he couldn’t beat Joronen. Another substitute Trevin Caesar also had a close try on goal for T&T.
Pelvas had one final attempt in the closing stages but Marchan went down low to protect T&T’s lead and make sure of their confidence boosting victory. Next up for Angus Eve’s team is a friendly against Guyana’s senior team at a date to be disclosed shortly.
Eve was obviously pleased with the result.
“I had an opportunity to see the Finland team against our senior team and I devised a plan to face them and I must say the boys executed that plan very well,” Eve said. “I thought the boys were very disciplined throughout the game for instance Jamal Gay was up front alone but he kept working hard and he took his chance when it came.
I think thought that we need to improve on our possession play. In the Pan American Games we played against teams of a similar level in terms of the intensity and today it was the same from the Finland team,” he said.
Paatelainen meantime, though disappointed with the result, said he was happy that his team got the workout they were hoping for on this trip.
“I thought it was another good match and very competitive which is what we wanted. But I am disappointed that we lost the game. We created chances to score maybe four goals but we didn’t take it.
It was a valuable exercise to play against another good Trinidad and Tobago team and I wish all the best to the Trinidad and Tobago team in their Olympic qualification,” said Paatelainen who now leads his team to Austria for another friendly international against that country
An up-close match report.
By: Doc (SWO Member).
After sourcing team sheets, we took up our position in the upper level of the covered stand. The goal keepers were already on the field going through their paces.
The rest of the squad emerged from the dressing room a few minutes later. Whereas the Finns separated their squad into two groups - starters and substitutes, the entire TT team was involved in a rigorous warm up which included a 6 v 6 v 6 possession game that lasted about 12 minutes.
The match started just past 6:00pm with T&T defending the goal to the north. Marchan in goal, Bateau at right back, Mekeil Williams at left back with Leslie Russell and Moses were at centre back. In midfield, Micah Lewis wide right, Molino wide left and a central midfield trio of Joseph, Jeromie Williams and Gonzales. Jamal Gay was the lone striker. The Finns were playing 4-3-3.
TT started out very cautiously, defending very deep in an effort to stifle the Finns advances, then playing very long hopeful balls forward for Gay. Finland on the other hand started quite brightly, showing greater intent - crisp passing and movement and a willingness to run at our defence.
Some 20 minutes into the match, Joseph picked a ball with space and produced a rasping 30 yard drive that Joronen the Finnish goalkeeper could only deflect back into play. Three minutes later after a fine combination through their left side, Pelvas found himself free in the box with goal at his mercy and shot straight at Marchan. The Finns were having the greater share of the ball with their midfield trio in command of the proceedings.
Their captain Sjolund was finding acres of space to operate in and was largely unchallenged. Lewis was providing a spark for TT with occasional individual work down the right side. The result was the same as Gay was a solitary figure in the Finns box surrounded by four or five Finns. The half came to a close with Gonzales getting forward and blasting his shot from outside the box past the left post.
Throughout most of the first half, the Young Warriors were extremely patient in possession and since the Finns did not press, we were quite content to pass the ball around at the back before launching that hopeful pass forward. Very little effort was made to join and support Gay. Sjolund on the other hand controlled the tempo, spraying passes to all quarters of the field. They weren't as incisive in the final third as they were often crowded out.
I got the impression that TT were trying to conserve their energy so that they can press the Finns in the second half.
Finland made three changes at the half. Midfielders Sjolundand Kolehmainen plus striker Mannstrom were replaced by Hamalainen, Sorsa and Riski. Central defender Patronen filled the void left by Sjolund in midfield. TT came out with Molino playing in a more advanced role . The difference was immediately seen as Molino played Gay through where he held off the defender but his low shot was save by the keeper's leg. The rebound came back to Gay for him to tap into the open goal in the 47th min. 1-0 to TT, and the crowd finally awoke.
Finland started to play with even greater urgency, but T&T defended resolutely. On 63 minutes, Gabriel replaced Molino and Caesar replaced Gay for the Warriors. T&T returned to the lone striker setup once more.
Finland followed immediately with Aaritalo replacing Hakola up front and Sadik coming in for midfielder Kauko. T&T then brought in Jomal Williams for skipper Bateau. Moses moved over to right back, with Gonzales moving into central defence. Jomal Williams was deployed in central midfield. Almost immediately the right side of our defence was tested and the Finns penetrated very easily, but the shot from inside the box screamed past the far post.
Again good work down the left side freed the striker just inside the box and this time his shot sailed harmlessly over the bar. Minutes later Patronen lobbed a ball over the defence and goalkeeper Marchan collided with the finnish striker. Marchan received attention and play resumed. Finland continued to attack through their left side but the ensuing crossed were overhit.
Meanwhile T&T continued playing long balls forward for the speedy Caesar to chase. On one such occasion he turned his marker and raced towards the box. He skied an ill-advised shot when it would have been better to reverse the ball to Lewis who was arriving free in the space he had created. Finland had another chance where a free left sided cross was headed over.
Finland made their final substitution when Halsti came in for Arajuuri with 6 minutes remaining. Rochford repaced Jeromie Williams in the 86th minute. Quashie was a 90th minute substitute for Lewis. Finland had one final chance when Aaritalo skipped past Mekeil Williams and found an unmarked Pelvas who shot straight at the keeper as time ran out.
The game finally ended 1-0 in favor of T&T.
Trinidad & Tobago: - 1.Andre Marchan, 2.Kareem Moses, 3.Sheldon Bateau (capt) (12.Jomal Williams 65th), 4.Curtis Gonzales, 7.Jayson Joseph, 8.Jeromie Williams (15.Jean-Luc Rochford 86th), socawarriors.net, 9.Jamal Gay (11.Trevin Caesar 63rd), 10.Kevin Molino (14.Kaydion Gabriel 63rd), 16.Leslie Russell, 17.Micah Lewis (13.Andre Quashie 90th), 18.Mekeil Williams.
Un-used Subs: 5.Aquil Selby, 6.Nuru Mohammed, 19.Quian Grosvenor, 21.Sheldon Clarke (GK).
Finland: 12.Jesse Joronen, 2.Joni Aho, 6.Ilari Aijala, 5.Hannu Patronen, 23.Paulus Arajuuri (15.Markus Halsti 84th), 16.Toni Kolehmainen (21.Kasper Hamalainen 46th), 18.Daniel Sjolund (capt) (19.Sebastian Sorsa 46th), 8.Joni Kauko (17.Berat Sadik 64th), 9.Sebastian Mannstrom (11.Riku Riski 46th), 20.Akseli Pelvas, 14.Juha Hakola.
Un-used Subs: 3.Mikko Sumusalo, 4.Joona Toivio, 1.Lukas Hradecky (GK).