A new-look Trinidad and Tobago national football team did well enough to earn plaudits but not a result as the "Soca Warriors" fell 3-2 to the visiting Finland outfit last night at the Hasely Crawford Stadium, Port of Spain.
The Warriors led twice and matched their guests for long spells but occasional mental lapses proved costly. The Finnish squad made the most of its chances as second half finishes from Toni Kolehmainen and Kasper Hamalainen header meant the Scandinavians ended with bragging rights.
Interim local coach Hutson "Barber" Charles, a former national stand-out, preferred to see the cup as half full in the post-game press conference, though.
"I'm satisfied with the performance (last night) given the little time we had," said Charles. "I'm encouraged by the heart and the pride that they showed."
Both teams were well below full strength. Half of Charles' 20-man squad was drafted in from the under-23 squad and there were three debutantes in the starting line-up and five more who were introduced off the substitutes' bench.
Finland also began with three rookies while only one starting player, midfielder Daniel Sjolund, had more than ten international appearances to his name.
Not surprisingly then, the two teams were tentative in their set-up and preferred to sit deep without possession rather than press for the ball.
Kevin Molino, in particular, took a liking to the space afforded to him in central midfield and his measured use of the ball was an early bright spot for the Warriors. The opening goal was deserved although the players involved were a surprise.
The Finnish backline responded slowly to a lofted pass from right back Curtis Gonzales and Seon Power, who had not yet retreated from a Trinidad and Tobago set piece, ran on to the ball and crossed accurately for his fellow central defender, Mekeil Williams, to tuck home from close range. It was a dream senior debut for Williams and Gonzales—both teammates at the Egypt 2009 FIFA Under-20 World Championship.
Their celebrations were short-lived, though. Barely two minutes later, Williams was slow to close down Riku Riski inside the penalty area and he belted an accurate left footer to Phillip's right to equalize.
The scoreline remained level at the interval but the Warriors were wayward after the restart and were fortunate not to concede straight away.
Power misjudged a right side cross into his penalty area and was relieved to see Hamalainen just miss the far corner while substitute Mika Aaritalo twice tested Phillip from distance after holding midfielder Clyde Leon was slow to apply pressure.
Charles responded by sending on Jean-Luc Rochford and Devorn Jorsling for Ataullah Guerra and Richard Roy respectively and the change reaped immediate dividends. Rochford slid the ball wide to fellow substitute Willis Plaza and, although Jorsling failed to make decisive contact with his low cross, Molino was well placed to stab home and restore the slender lead for the Warriors in the 66th minute.
Seven minutes later, though, Finland deservedly drew level as Akeem Adams failed to track Kolehmainen's charge into the area where he collected a clever flick from Aaritalo and coolly placed into the far corner.
And, in the 78th minute, the Finns went ahead for the first time as Hamalainenen sent a thumping header past Phillip and in off the post following a left side cross.
Trinidad and Tobago was a spent force by then and never looked like dragging themselves back into the game.
"A lot of mistakes were made tonight," said Charles. "We need to focus more, especially on defence."
The sentiments were echoed by Phillip, last night's captain, and De Silva, who gave a lively cameo off the substitutes' bench.
De Silva is looking forward to another crack at Finland with the national under-23 team on Finland. On last night's evidence, De Silva and some of his fresh-faced teammates should not have long to wait before another run at senior level either.
T&T: 1.Marvin Phillip (capt), 2.Curtis Gonzales, 3.Akeem Adams (19.Leslie Russell 77th), 4.Clyde Leon, 5.Seon Power, 6.Mekeil Williams, 7.Kendall Jagdeosingh (18.Sean De Silva 57th), 8.Ataullah Guerra (16.Jean-Luc Rochford 65th), 9.Richard Roy (15.Devorn Jorsling 65th), 10.Kevin Molino (12.Keon Boucher 80th), 11.Joevin Jones (14.Willis Plaza 57th).
Unused Subs: 13.Hayden Tinto, 17.Aquil Selby, 21.Andre Marchan (GK).
Finland: 1.Lukas Hradecky, 3.Mikko Sumusalo, 4.Joona Toivio (capt), 8.Joni Kauko (2.Joni Aho 75th), 11.Riku Riski (9.Sebastian Mannstrom 46th), 15.Markus Halsti, 16.Toni Kolehmainen, 17.Berat Sadik (7.Mika Aaritalo 30th), 18. Daniel Sjolund (5.Hannu Patronen 90th), 19.Sebastian Sorsa (20.Akseli Pelvas 75th), 21.Kasper Hamalainen (6.Ilari Aijala 86th).
Unused Subs: 12.Jesse Joronen (GK), 14.Juha Hakola, 23.Paulus Arajuuri.
(LIVE, minute by minute report) T&T versus Finland
Written by Lasana Liburd (wired868).
Not a bad debut for Wired868 either, I might add. Good evening to all!
T&T loses its first game of the year. Finland leave Port of Spain with a 3-2 victory and were marginally better but only because the Finns committed less individual errors and held their shape throughout.
Charles might have preferred a draw but it was a useful exercise. He got the chance to see some promising young players in combat and the team generally played as a group and showed good movement.
90+: Lovely T&T exchange of passes and overlapping Power finds Boucher in the opposing area but the occasion got the better of him and his left foot attempt on the turn was feeble.
90: Finland trade passes through the T&T defence but Kolehmainen skies his left foot effort on this occasion. Phillip's back four should have had more support from the three midfielders in front of them and Leon, as the holding man, might have some questions to answer.
89: Promising De Silva free kick angled into the area but too close to Finland goalkeeper Lukas Hradecky.
Leslie Russell is at central defence with Mekeil Williams pushed to left back.
83: A panicked Gonzales clearance means T&T have to defend another corner kick. But it comes to nothing thanks to good pressure from Rochford.
Finland in control now and lazily stroking around the ball while T&T continues to stand off.
80: Keon Boucher replaces Molino for his debut.
Prior to goal, Charles replaced the exhausted Adams with rookie Leslie Russell. And Finland promptly utilised the other flank to go ahead.
78: Sumusalo crosses from the left and Hamalainen powers home a header off the post. GOAL !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Hamalainen! (3-2)
Mika Aaritalo made a delightful first time flick with his right foot and Kolehmainen cut inside Adams to control and place carefully low to Phillip's right.
73: GOAL !!!!!!! Toni Kolehmainen (2-2)!
Six players on the field at the moment played at the 2009 Under-20 World Cup in Egypt. Continuity.
Rochford immediately gets in the swing of things with a ball to Gonzales on the right. Jorsling could not get a decisive touch on his dangerous cross but the ball breaks kindly for Molino who couldn't miss from six yards out. That was Molino's second international goal.
66: GOAL !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Molino.. T&T 2 v Fin 1
65: Two more T&T changes as Jean-Luc Rochford makes his debut as a replacement for Guerra while Devorn Jorsling replaces Roy.
63: Guerra has time and space to shoot but inexplicably slips and gifts the ball to the Finnish goalie. Plaza is making his debut by the way while this is De Silva's second outing--both as substitute.
Molino has moved wide on the left now while De Silva has the job of restoring order in central midfield alongside Guerra and Leon.
57: T&T replace both wingers as Sean De Silva and Willis Plaza on for Jones and Jagdeosingh. De Silva gives his band of supporters an early cause for excitement with an acrobatic effort after a short corner with Molino. But the angle is against him and it goes straight to the opposing goalie.
56: A heavy touch from Roy in the opposing area and a sniff of a chance is gone.
T&T is defending with 10 players. The structure looks pretty sound for Charles' boys although some individual lapses are causing the occasional scare.
53: Guerra dispossessed too easily on top the opposing area and Finland counter. Guerra, who is making his tenth international appearance, is yet to justify his starting berth this evening.
52: Another long ranged effort by striker Aaritalo as the T&T midfield is yet to get going.
50: Hard to see who was most culpable there as Aaritalo had time and space to line up a left foot effort that was held on the second attempt by Phillip. Power was defending too deep, Williams made a short pass and Leon was beaten too easily by the attacker.
47: Finland inches away from the lead. Right back Sorsa swung in a deep cross that Power misjudged but Hamalainen pulled his effort just wide at the far post.
46: We restart with the game clock as our reference. Finland has made a second change and again it is an attacking re-think. Sebastian Mannstrom replaces the goalscorer Riku Riski... And just as I thought of some good puns too!
A decent half of football and there shouldn't be too many unhappy persons here; be they Finnish or Trinidad and Tobago nationals. The Warriors looked to get the most joy with diagonal passes behind the opposing full backs and Kendall Jagdeosingh and Curtis Gonzales have been especially willing to get behind them on the right flank.
Finland have mainly looked dangerous from set pieces although their goal came from open play. Debutante Mekeil Williams might have still been thinking about his opening goal when he allowed Riski space in the T&T box to equalise--obviously a Riski as well as costly decision.
While Molino, Leon and Power have helped T&T remain solid; Charles might have pointed out that Guerra, Adams, Jones and Roy can do much better. Here's hoping for the second half.
5.44: Both teams locked at a goal apiece at the interval.
Gonzales is fine to continue and wiser for the experience. Not any lightweights in the blue Finnish colours as far as I can see.
5.39: Curtis Gonzales is off for some treatment after unsuccessfully trying to manhandle Kasper Hamalainen.
5.36: I won't describe the pace of this game as electric but both teams are definitely committed. T&T have Olympic qualifiers in March and Caribbean Cup action in June while Finland starts its 2014 World Cup qualifying campaign in September against France.
There is an old football saying about a team's vulnerability right after they have scored. Riski was given space to control in the box and belted a left footer into the far corner to Phillip's right.
5.32: GOAL !!!!!!!!! Riku Riski! (1-1)
A dream debut for Mekeil Williams, a member of the 2009 Under-20 World Cup squad. I don't think he actually played in Egypt but he has shown what he can do here. Finland failed to clear their lines from a set piece and Seon Power ran on to a ball over the top and expertly squared for Williams to tap home.
5.30: GOAL !!!!!!!!! Mekeil Williams, T&T 1 v Fin 0
5.29: An early change by Finland as Mika Aaritalo replaces Berat Sadik after just 31 minutes.
5.26: A bit of trivia for you; Phillip has led all rival goalkeepers in clean sheets in every year since 2006. The captain's armband surely pays tribute for a commendable consistency for the 27-year-old who seems to have shaken off the disciplinary problems that blighted his youth.
5.22: For the record, Finland is also playing 4-3-3 only the attacking three for the visitors are more narrow with both full backs bombing forward at every opportunity. Charles' decision to start two industrious wingers in Jagdeosingh and Jones might be a blessing.
5.20: Another Finnish corner coming up. This time, Kolehmainen works it short and sharp but Warriors able to clear. Finland are looking dangerous from set pieces.
5.16: T&T showing nice patience in the middle with the ball. A little over elaborate at times but not unexpected from young players. Finland more interested in hitting the flanks on the break.
5.11: The Hasely Crawford Stadium is stuffed. Not with supporters but rather with youthful enthusiasm and ambition.
There are three debutantes in the Finnish and T&T starting line-ups. For the Warriors, the Defence Force duo of Curtis Gonzales and Richard Roy are at right back and striker respectively while Mekeil Williams starts alongside Seon Power in central defence.
5.06: T&T is employing a modern 4-3-3 system with retreating wingers. Joevin Jones and Kendall Jagdeosingh are either side of lone striker Richard Roy. Jones and Jagdeosingh have both been capped before as full backs, so T&T shouldn't be short of defensive endeavor today.
5.04: Needless to say, an apt description of the average Finnish player would be Chris Birchall standing on a ladder.
5.03: Finland win their first corner and Joevin Jones heads off his goalline with Marvin Phillip at sea from looping Halsti header. Ball eventually scrappily cleared.
5.01: T&T off to an assured start with some crisp passing from the midfield but so far the crosses from either flank have not troubled the Finnish defence.
4.58: Kick off.
4.52: My internet provider just played a cruel trick on me, which means I have to write over the entire Finnish squad. Thanks for that.
T&T: 1.Marvin Phillip (capt), 2.Curtis Gonzales, 3.Akeem Adams, 4.Clyde Leon, 5.Seon Power, 6.Mekeil Williams, 7.Kendall Jagdeosingh, 8.Ataullah Guerra, 9.Richard Roy, 10.Kevin Molino, 11.Joevin Jones.
Subs: 12.Keon Boucher, 13.Hayden Tinto, 14.Willis Plaza, 15.Devorn Jorsling, 16.Jean-Luc Rochford, 17.Aquil Selby, 18.Sean De Silva, 19.Leslie Russell, 21.Andre Marchan (GK).
Finland: 1.Lukas Hradecky, 3.Mikko Sumusalo, 4.Joona Toivio (capt), 8.Joni Kauko, 11.Riku Riski, 15.Markus Halsti, 16.Toni Kolehmainen, 17.Berat Sadik, 18. Daniel Sjolund, 19.Sebastian Sorsa, 21.Kasper Hamalainen.
Subs: 2.Joni Aho, 5.Hannu Patronen, 6.Ilari Aijala, 7.Mika Aaritalo, 9.Sebastian Mannstrom, 12.jesse Joronen (GK), 14.Juha Hakola, 20.Akseli Pelvas, 23.Paulus Arajuuri.
4.16: Anyone still worried about crime and the rising murder rate? There probably are not many safer places than the Hasely Crawford Stadium... I'm guessing five police/security personnel to every one supporter at the moment. Another plus for football fans who are heading to Port of Spain right now.
2.25: See you at Hasely Crawford (or in cyberspace) at 4.30. 'Til later.
T&T (20-man squad): Marvin Phillip (Capt), Andre Marchan, Leslie Russell, Curtis Gonzales, Mekeil Williams, Seon Power, Akeem Adams, Joevin Jones, Clyde Leon, Jean Luc Rochford, Sean De Silva, Ataullah Guerra, Aquil Selby, Hayden Tinto, Kevin Molino, Kendall Jagdeosingh, Devorn Jorsling, Willis Plaza, Richard Roy, Keon Boucher.
Coach Hutson Charles.
Finland (20-man squad): Lukas Hradecky, Jesse Joronen; Markus Halsti, Joona Toivio, Hannu Patronen, Paulus Arajuuri, Mikko Sumusalo, Joni Aho; Kasper Hamalainen, Daniel Sjolund, Riku Riski, Sebastian Sorsa, Sebastian Mannstrom, Ilari Aijala, Joni Kauko, Juha Hakola, Toni Kolehmainen; Berat Sadik, Mika Aaritalo, Akseli Pelvas.
Coach Mixu Paatelainen.
Referee Courtney Campbell (Jamaica), Asst Refs Dion Neil and Ainsley Rochard (T&T)
Warriors edged...Finland win friendly 3-2.
By Kern De Freitas (T&T Express).
Trinidad and Tobago gave a valiant performance against Finland yesterday, before going down 3-2 to the visitors at Hasely Crawford Stadium last night.
The Finns turned out to be suitable opposition for a new-look T&T getting their first start since the disastrous 2014 World Cup qualifying campaign, and the "Soca Warriors" could have won the match but for some indecisive finishing and lethargic marking.
Still, it turned out to be a good test for a team in their first competitive outing in nearly two months.
T&T got goals on either side of half-time from Mekeil Williams and Kevin Molino the 66th and 80th minutes for a 2-1 lead. And substitute Keon Boucher snuffed a perfect chance in stoppage time, missing his close range effort from the right side of the penalty area.
For Finland, Riku Riski (34th minute), Toni Kolehmainen (74th) and Kasper Hamalainen contributed directly to their victory.
T&T promised the sparse home support an interesting 90 minutes when they started with a good run from Kendall Jagdeosingh down the right flank. But a few minutes of pressure brought Finland close to opening their account. Joevin Jones, though, came to the rescue, heading off the line with T&T goalkeeper Marvin Phillip committed, when Riski headed goalward.
Finnish left back Mikko Sumusalo was a thorn on the left side, but T&T's defence held firm in the first half hour, and other than his early gaffe, the T&T skipper was solid in goal.
Striker Richard Roy was given constant attention, while central midfielder Ataullah Guerra should have made better use of space in the attacking third. Seon Power had a blast from 30 metres also.
It was the dreadlocked defender that helped T&T grab the advantage, however, latching onto a long ball from Clyde Leon from centre midfield to the left penalty area, and his square pass found a sliding Mekeil Williams who produced a neat finish past Finnish goalie Lukas Hradecky.
Before the crowd's celebratory chatter could dissipate however, the Scandinavians were on level terms. The T&T defence was caught napping and Riski beat Phillip from close range through the crowded penalty area.
The only other chance before half-time came from Kolehmainen, but his dangerous corner kick was well held by Phillip in the 45th.
T&T felt steady pressure from the restart, with the Finns having no less than five chances inside the first four minutes. Hamalainen, Mika Aaritalo, Sabastian Mannstrom and Kolehmainen all provided nervous moments for the home team.
But T&T were the ones clawing ahead after absorbing the pressure. Coach Hutson Charles sent on Willis Plaza and Sean De Silva to replace Jones and Jagdeosingh respectively, and once Devon Jorsling and Jean Luc Rochford replaced Richard Roy and Ataullah Guerra, T&T's more attacking outlook paid dividends.
Jorsling missed an attempted toe-poke in a crowded defensive area, and Molino was on hand to slot home the loose ball.
A resurgent Finland effectively ended chances of a T&T win with a double strike, which put them ahead for the first time in the 79th. Poor T&T marking allowed Kolehmainen to spring the offside trap and collect a long chip from Joni Kauko into the T&T penalty box. The striker beat Phillip to his far post in the 74th.
They then got the lead from unmarked Hamalainen, whose bullet of a head nestled snugly in the net after Sumusalo crossed unchallenged from the left.
The crowd "oohed" and "aahed" after Boucher's late glaring miss, which reaffirmed the fact that despite T&T's encouraging showing, Charles and fellow coach Angus Eve still have a lot of work to do.