Trinidad and Tobago’s senior footballers gave a display of true grit and determination as they came from behind twice to draw 2-2 with Venezuela at the Hasely Crawford Stadium on Thursday.
A double by Birmingham City Stern John almost led the “Soca Warriors” to an exciting victory as the homeside produced a performance which left many wanting for more.
On the heels of a 2-1 defeat to South Africa and two successive draws against Kenya and Botswana, T&T showed all signs that they are working their way back up following the disappointment of failing to make the 2003 CONCACAF Gold Cup.
It was not all smooth running for skipper Reynold Carrington and his teammates as the visitors shocked all at home when they grabbed the lead inside 30 seconds.
From the kickoff, Venezuela strung their passes before the ball ended up with Cristian Casseres who had a clear view on goal and made no mistake, hitting into the left corner from atop the penalty box.
The start was far from what T&T were hoping for but it didn’t deter them from trying to settle into a decent rhythm.
John and his teammates thought they had the equalizer in the 9th minute but assistant referee Michael Ragoonath ruled offside after the striker headed home Silvio Spann’s left side free kick. The call seemed doubtful as the players protested Ragoonath’s call which referee Richard Piper obeyed.
Two minutes later, striker Hector Sam was also unlucky as his right footed effort hit the left post before going out and Spann followed up on his own free kick to shoot low into the hands of goalkeeper Javier Villafraz.
T&T continued to make inroads into the opposition’s penalty box with Edwards, Sam, John and Kerry Baptiste combining well.
Nigel Daniel had another good try when after Carlos Edwards and Sam interchanged passes on the right, the midfielder collected wide on the left before cutting inside and shooting at the ‘keeper.
Sam also had a good try saved by the ‘keeper near the half time break.
T&T would get the equalizer two minutes into the second half as a last ditch effort to win the possession by Silvio Spann resulted in the ball bubbling and catching the hand of Leonel Vielma. John made no mistake with the resulting penalty, stabbing it hard and low into the left corner.
But little more than two minutes elapsed before Venezuela went ahead again.
A lapse in defence allowed Casseres to travel across the box with sufficient room and he raced past defender Keyeno Thomas before hitting high into the net from the edge of the box.
T&T goalkeeper Jan-Michael Williams made a timely saved after his initial clearance fell for Luis Vallenilla who, spotting the ‘keeper way off his line, chipped goalwards but the youthful custodian hurried back to tip over bar almost on the line.
The introduction of Nigel Pierre and Kendall Davis meant that coach Fevrier had attacking intentions and it seemed only a matter of time before another T&T goal arrived.
On 83rd minutes it was John again. This time, Davis, after failing to get off an earlier shot, controlled and played the ball back inside from the left and John got a touch to Pierre who slipped the return pass to the former to shoot home from close up.
The home fans were now in a frenzy as a strong second half fight had just paid dividends.
Six minutes from time Pierre also shot into the net but it would be the second offside ruling against T&T. This time however, the call looked right.
Regardless of that, the evening was one where the 10,000 odd fans enjoyed a keenly contested affair and one which the “Soca Warriors” were unfortunate not to come away victorious to avenge April’s 3-0 loss in San Cristobal.
TnT 2 vs 2 Venezuela.
Jan-Michael Williams, Reynold Carrington (capt), Dennis Lawrence, Keyeno Thomas, Nigel Daniel (Anthony Wolfe 90th), Dale Saunders (Kurt Williams 80th), Kerry Baptiste (Kendall Davis 61st), Carlos Edwards, Silvio Spann (Trent Noel 89th), Héctor Sam (Nigel Pierre 69th), Stern John.
Other TnT Subs:
Ian Gray, Daurence Williams.
Manuel Sanhouse, Luis Vallenilla Pacheco, Leonel Vielma, José Manuel Rey, Jorge Rojas, Gabriel Urdaneta (Ricardo Páez 80th), Javier Villafraz (Luis Vera 88th), Leopoldo Jiménez, Giovanni Pérez (Alejandro Cichero 74th); Rubert Morán (Daniel Noriega 66th), Cristian Casseres (Juan Arango 78th).
Hasely Crawford Stadium - Trinidad.
TnT Goal Scorer:
Stern John - 2 Goals - 47th & 73rd.
Venezuela Goal Scorer:
Cristian Casseres - 2 Goals, 1st & 49th.
Fevrier happy with T&T’s collective effort.
By: Shaun Fuentes.
“It was a fair game but I still feel we can do better,” said National Coach Stuart Charles Fevrier. “We need to keep working on getting a bigger share of ball possession during the game. But I was pleased generally because I think we are continuing to improve and we are still a young team in terms of the length of time we have been together.
“We showed in this game that we can adjust tactically because we did this in the second half and it paid off. We showed that we can remain calm under pressure and make a comeback,” added the St Lucian. “We did feel that maybe one of the two goals that were disallowed could have gone our way. The composure the guys showed was a plus.
“Obviously Stern was the player who stood out. He scored two goals and his leadership was great but I will credit the entire team because we are trying very hard to improve the collectiveness of our team play. All the other players performed their functions well. We also want to thank the fans for coming out and supporting us. We appreciate it heavily and games like these this can only auger well for the future” said Fevrier.
Player Ratings, Starters & Stats, My View.
By Brian "Patriot" Springer.
Stern John - Striker - 8 - Clearly not match-fit, by his own admission, however even at 60 maybe 70%, Stern is just a natural goal scorer and but for a VERY questionable (dubious) call by the linesman, would have had a well-deserved hat-trick with a brilliant first-half header!
Hector Sam - Striker - 7 - I’ve always been an admirer of Sam. He's such a fighter! Runs hard and uses that pace VERY effectively. Since this was his first game playing alongside Stern, there was very little chemistry, but hopefully they’ll get more opportunities to develop that strikers rapport. He too was very un-lucky when his one time shot clipped the post with the keeper beaten all ends up!
Kerry Baptiste - Attacking Mid-Fielder - 5 - Definitely NOT yet ready for this level. He’s NOT a play-maker and did nothing defensively. Stuart-Charles used him in the absence of Brent Rahim and Arnold Dwarika, but the team needs one of those two (or Jemmott) for that role. Hopefully he will mature with more playing time and experience with the Under-23’s.
Carlos Edwards - Right-Wing - 7 - Didn’t have as much influence as in previous games, was on the back-foot and so wasn't able to advance and supply as many crosses. Still when he did come forward, looked VERY dangerous.
Nigel Daniel - Left-wing - 8 - Would you believe I did NOT like this player when I first saw him in action last year. But boy has he managed to change my mind with his performances in the last 2 Internationals. A REAL work-horse. Against South Africa I said his hard work and enthusiasm made up for his lack of skill. But Stuart-Charles has brought out the best of this guy. Supplied many useful crosses and marauded that wing. Being naturally right-footed, he would be able to sub on the other wing should Carlos be unavailable. Gets MY vote for most improved player of the year!
Dale Saunders - Defensive – Midfielder - 7 - Did the job asked of him, but it seems that every time this guy plays he gets booked. Still doesn’t tackle as cleanly as I’d like to see and his height is a definite liability for the role he plays. Could see him being replaced by either Avery John or Brent Sancho, both excellent headers of the ball!
Silvio Spann - Central Midfield - 6&1/2 - Had a particularly bad 1st half (it was he who got caught in possession that led to the first goal). However he recovered to have a great 2nd half, so Stuart-Charles must have given him a real good pep talk during the break. He too came close to scoring with some free-kicks (has been assigned that role) and it was he in fact who made the pass that was handled by the Venezuelan to earn us a penalty. Still Under-23, once he continues to apply himself, he will be around for quite some time and should emerge as one of Trinidad’s finest in years to come.
Keyeno Thomas - Defender (right) - 7 - Didn’t have an impressive game, but gives 100% each time and can be counted on hard tackles, but MUST work on his speed if he wants to hold onto his starting place. He was left for dead by the Venezuelan and just could NOT keep up, leading to T&T conceding a second goal.
Dennis Lawrence - Defender (Central) - 7&1/2 - Gave a decent account of himself, marking well and marshalling his fellow defenders but he too looked less than match-fit.
Reynold Carrington - Sweeper - 7 - Carrington is another die-hard player who leads by example. However his age does not allow for him to hold onto this position going into the qualifiers next year. I expect Marvin Andrews to return and Carrington to be on the bench then. For now though he is the Captain who epitomizes the name “Warrior”!!!
Jan-Michael Williams - 6&1/2 - At 18 years old, I can’t be too hard on the young man, who has been given a LOT of responsibility and coped QUITE well. He will be one of T&T’s best keepers down the road!
Nigel Pierre - 9 - Coming on as a sub may just be the best thing that could have happened to ole “croc” He looked sharp, fast ???? and combined perfectly with Stern (It was HIS pass that led to Stern’s second item) and the foul on Pierre resulted in Venezuela being reduced to 10 men. He really stood out in this game!
Kendall Davis - 6 - Like the man he replaced, Baptiste, Davis is a work in progress, also he’s a striker, NOT a mid-fielder, so he simply played the role assigned to him as best he could.
Our last sub (Anthony Wolfe) came on in the final minute of extra time so he wasn’t around long enough to make an impression, the un-used subs were the substitute goalie (Daurence Williams and top defender Ian Gray) both Jabloteh players.
Overall thoughts on the squad:
I can see Stuart-Charles plan. He’s exposing as many players as possible to International football so as to have a player pool for the qualifiers. By now he’ll already have an idea of who is ready, who will be in time and who can’t cut it. Right now we have some depth in the striker and defender department, but our weak area is Central mid-field. With Otis Seaton, Arnold Dwarika and Kerwyn Jemmott AWOL and undisciplined, I don’t blame the coach for searching for more reliable replacements.
The sad truth is we need these guys to pull up their socks and commit themselves. It may be too late for Arnold Dwarika at this stage, but the other two are still relatively young and hopefully can come around. Brent Rahim, Marvin Andrews, Cornell Glen also have to come into the squad and earn their first cap under the Charles, so I hope that in September during the 2nd Africa tour we can have as close to our strongest team assembled then. I am impressed by the team’s OVERALL performance to date as well as the coach’s tactical decisions.
I’d like to see us play Venezuela again in a few months or at year-end. Where as they were able to dominate this game with their speedy touches and fancy foot-work, not to mention QUICK counter-attacks, I think THEY are as good as they’re gonna get, while T&T is now getting warmed up! Things are looking up fellas! Let’s support our Warriors!!!