CARSON, California - Second-half substitute Shahdon Winchester scored three minutes into second-half stoppage time and earned Trinidad & Tobago a 1-1 draw with Panama on Sunday that did little for either team's hopes of reaching the semifinals of CONCACF Olympic qualifying.
The result left both teams at the bottom of Group B with one point, two behind Mexico and Honduras which were to play later Sunday. All four teams will play again on Tuesday in the final first-round group matches.
Winchester, who replaced Micah Lewis in the 62nd minute, tapped in a loose ball at the left post after the ball bounced around in the Panama penalty area.
Daneil Cyrus had a long throw into the box from the right side that Sheldon Bateu and Karreem Moses both had touches on before it landed at the feet of Kevin Molino at the top of the area. Molino, who had Trinidad's only goal in a 7-1 loss to Mexico on Friday, drove a ball toward net, where Rolando Algandona blocked it near the line.
But it bounded toward Winchester, who simply volleyed it in.
"It was tremendous for us in many ways because we have been working very hard in the past year now," Trinidad coach Angus Eve said. "To reach this stage, we want to try our best to reach the semifinals. Getting that goal is the opportunity for us."
Panama appeared on its way to victory after Cecilio Waterman scored in the 69th, three minutes after entering the game.
Rolando Algandona launched a free kick into the area from distance and Trinidad keeper Andre Marchan came off his line to try to punch clear. But the ball only went as far as Anibal Godoy standing in the middle of the penalty area, where he settled it off his chest and hit a right-footed shot that was heading toward the right post before Waterman deflected it with the inside of his heel.
The match was marred by a steady rain that began an hour to an hour and a half before kickoff in 57-degree Fahrenheit (14 Celsius) weather. A relatively heavy shower intensified at the start of the second half and made traction difficult, with players from both teams losing their footing with standing water kicking up around the players' feet.
Both sides had reasonable chances early in the first half with Panama's Victor Barrera having a ball blocked off his foot in the middle of Trinidad's penalty area in the second minute and Trinidad's Lewis getting a clean look from distance with a shot that rolled into Panama keeper Luis Mejia in the 12th.
Panama had the better of play and the best chance of the first half in the 26th when Godoy hit a shot from 25 meters that Trinidad keeper Andre Marchal knocked away with his right hand.
Marchan was playing two days after suffering a mild concussion in a collision with Nestor Calderon in the 77th minute of Mexico's 7-1 win.
The second half became more of an adventure as the rain soaked the natural grass surface at The Home Depot Center.
Panama began to claim more of the possession and chances, with Marchan having to go low to stop Amir Waithe's try from distance in the 51st and Yairo Glaize Yao's shot that went high in the 72nd.
Jamal Gay had Trinidad's best chance with a header that went straight to Mejia in the 73rd.
Panama still must face Mexico while Trinidad will complete its first round against Honduras.
"Our chances are slim. But the possibility exists,' Panama coach Julio Dely Valdes said assessing Panama's semifinal chances. "We have to keep wanting it.
"Mexico has alot of strengths and a lot of things they are good at. We'll have to control that and stop them. It's not going to be easy but I think every team in the world has weaknesses. So, we have to go out and exploit their weaknesses."
Highlights Panama v Trinidad Tobago
Panama: - Luis Mejía, Carlos Rodríguez, Rolando Algandona (Yellow 83), Harold Cummings, Roderick Miller, Aníbal Godoy, Javier Cedeño (Roderick Paúl 90th), Manuel Asprilla, Amir Waithe, Yairo Glaize (Marcos Sánchez 85th), Victor Barrera (Cecilio Waterman 66th).
Coach: Julio Dely Valdés.
Trinidad and Tobago: - 1.Andre Marchan, 4.Sheldon Bateau, 15.Curtis Gonzales (12.Jayson Joseph 78th) (Yellow 82), 17.Mekeil Williams (14.Tervin Caesar 78th), 19.Daneil Cyrus (Yellow 89), 3.Joevin Jones (Yellow 66), 2.Kareem Moses, 10.Kevin Molino, 5.Kevan George, 9.Jamal Gay, 18.Micah Lewis (11.Shahdon Winchester 62nd).
Coach: - Angus Eve.
Referee: - Javier Santos (Puerto Rico).
Attendance: - 16184.
Venue: - The Home Depot Center Carson, California.
GP W T L GF GA GD PTS
Mexico 2 2 0 0 10 1 +9 6
Honduras 2 1 0 1 3 4 -1 3
Panama 2 0 1 1 2 4 -2 1
Trinidad & Tobago 2 0 1 1 2 8 -6 1
Winchester's goal keeps T&T alive.
By: Shaun Fuentes (TTFF).
With the clock winding down and another exit from a major tournament steering Trinidad and Tobago in the face, Shahdon Winchester fired a late equalizer to give his team a lifeline in the 2012 Olympic qualifying campaign.
Winchester entered the match on 62 minutes in place of Micah Lewis and the substitution by head coach Angus Eve paid off in the 93rd minute when the W Connection forward was on spot to tap home from close range after Kevin Molino’s left footed shot was partially blocked on the left post.
The goal sparked celebrations in the T&T camp and among the dozen or so T&T fans who braved the rainy conditions to support their country at the Home Depot Center, California.
With Mexico defeating Honduras 3-0 in the second match on Sunday and booking their spot in the semi-finals, T&T now remain with a chance of advancing too as a victory over Honduras on Tuesday will see them finish in second spot on four points ahead of Honduras (3pts).
Eve changed up his starting team from the one that got hammered by Mexico on Friday, bringing in defender Curtis Gonzales, winger Micah Lewis, stopper Kareem Moses and left side defender Joevin Jones.
And for much of the first half, T&T were able to keep their shape and organization, stifling the Panamanians for most parts. But there was still the usual break down in certain parts of the field and T&T’s pace in attack was too slow to cause much of a panic for the Panama back line.
Lewis had T&T’s first try at goal in the 12th minute when he collected from Molino but his right footer was saved low down by Luis Mejia.
On 27 minutes Eric Lewis tested Marchan from outside the box but the ‘keeper, who suffered a mild concussion against Mexico, was up to the task, pushing away to his left as the defence averted danger
On the other end, Jamal Gay and Jones also went up for a deep cross from the right but there was not enough on the ball to trouble Mejia as T&T tried to force themselves into the Panamanian penalty box.
The game opened up in the second half as the rains came belting down with strong winds and the field conditions didn’t make it easy for either side despite there still being relatively good passes on the green carpet in spurts from both teams
Panama created their fair share of scoring opportunities but T&T were not to be outdone as they put a lot more into their efforts, realizing the absolute need to grind out a result.
Amir Waithe and Yairo Glaize both missed chances for Panama with shots that were off target. All the while, Moses and Daneil Cyrus were on top of their game, with Bateau and Gonzales putting in strong efforts to ensure T&T kept themselves in the game.
But Marchan gifted Panama their opening item when his weak punch to a Rolando Algandona’s free kickout saw the ball fall on a platter for Anibal Godoy and his shot towards the right post was deflected in off the inside of Cecilio Waterman’s heel past Marchan. Waterman had entered the game just three minutes earlier.
Gay had a header saved and Kevan George’s glancing attempt went wide of the far left post a T&T pressed for the tying goal.
Molino also had an attempt foiled while a free kick by Jones after Molino was hacked down, was saved low by Mejia.
Substitute Trevin Caesar muffed a wonderful opportunity to draw level in the dying stages when he fired a right footer wide of the far left post after getting behind the Panamanian defence with only the advancing Mejia to beat.
Cyrus’ long throws from the right eventually brought reward to T&T for their valiant efforts as Molino drove the ball goalwards and the striker from Princes Town was on spot to direct the rebound home after Algandona got a faint touch.
Eve later credited his players for a gritty display.
“It was a game where we needed to get a result and while we got the point at the end I thought we could have come away with a win here but all in all, we can still celebrate it because it came right at the death,” Eve told TTFF Media.
“We have everything to play for now on Tuesday against Honduras because they lost to Mexico today and it means if we can get three points we will finish in second spot and move on to the semi-finals. It’s not beyond us but we have to believe more in our ability.
It’s a challenge here and even in other instances to get players to believe that they can compete at this level but we’re getting there one step at a time and on Tuesday we have another opportunity to get closer to that.”
“I thought today we were a lot better defensively than on Friday against Mexico and our players didn’t give away balls cheaply.
We conceded another soft goal which is definitely something we have to keep working on because it makes no sense putting in hard work in the preparations and in the match and then giving away cheap goals like we did here. But overall, I’m pleased with the fight and a draw that has kept us alive here in California,” Eve added.