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AC Port of Spain's Anthony Charles, left, battles for possession with Golden Lions FC's Johann Noel during the Concacaf Caribbean Cup match at the Hasely Crawford Stadium in Port-of-Spain on Wednesday, September 20th 2023. AC PoS suffered a 3-2 loss. PHOTO: Daniel Prentice

Walt Noreiga, coach of AC Port-of-Spain, has identified that his team's poor finishing as the sole reason for their 3-2 loss to Martinique's Golden Lion in their Group A clash in the Concacaf Caribbean Cup at the Hasely Crawford Stadium in Mucurapo, Port-of-Spain on Wednesday night – a result which has eliminated them from the tournament.

Entering the match with zero points from their previous two matches, victory was a must for both teams to maintain their slim chances of advancing to the next phase and coach Noreiga, blames yet another sub-par performance in front of goal by the “Capital Boyz” as the reason for being at the bottom of the five-team group, still without a point after three matches.

“We continue to have problems on how to find the back of the nets. We are creating the chances, the problem is not the creation of the chances, the problem is in executing. I also think that we are making too many mistakes and starting slow which leads to conceding early goals so it's something that we have to look at. Our possession of the ball is pretty alright, but I keep saying the execution in the final third just keeps letting us down all the time,” said Noriega.

"When you look at the games, we are getting some clear-cut chances and it's something that we just have to correct and work on at the training ground, get the right touch and get back that feeling of putting the ball in the back of the net,” lamented the former T&T international.

Golden Lion moves up to third with three points with the away win, one point behind T&T champions Defence Force, a team that has already blanked them in the opening match. Jamaica's Cavalier FC, who whipped Dominican Republic's Moca FC 3-0 on Tuesday night, are current group leaders with seven points, leaving the DR team joint third with three points.

With the match just two minutes old and in front of a small crowd, a defensive blunder by the home team allowed Thierry Catherine to snatch the opener for the visitors before Jordy Boriel made it 2-0 in the 16th minute.

Radanfah Abu Bakr was able to give the T&T side some hope going into the halftime interval pulling a goal back for the "Captial Boyz".

Noreiga tried to capitalise on this momentum on resumption by making a few changes and introducing Kerron St Cyr and Che Benny, for Kareem Eastman and Anthony Charles. The switches seemed to breathe new life into the local lads as they took control and created several chances with yet another of the substitutes, Tyrone Charles, who had replaced an out-of-sorts, Jean-Heim Mc Fee just before the break, being instrumental.

The constant pressure and the inspirational play of AC PoS eventually caused a mistake in the Loin’s defence which resulted in a 2-2 score line with Samuel Mondesir diverting the equalising goal past his own keeper and into his net during the 68th minute.

Charles moved from potential hero to villain when in the 81st minute he wasted a glorious chance to hand the host a deserving lead and within a few seconds was regretting this miss as Abu Bakr was whistled for a penalty at the other end. The resultant spot kick was converted for the winner in the 83rd minute, by Kevin Parsemain, Martinique's all-time leading scorer.

After the match, Noreiga admitted it was a bitter loss to cope with, saying: "It’s a difficult result as we were expecting to do much better than we did tonight (Wednesday) and I think our play in the final third let us down again, in this our third game. It is something we have to look at as we continue in the tournament and represent as best as we could.”

Noreiga said it's up to him and his coaching staff to get the boys back into focus and with just one match left and already being eliminated from advancing look further ahead.

"I think we have to implement some of the younger boys now into the team, and keep pushing, and keep working. We fell off the boil in this competition but it’s not the end of AC Port-of-Spain as we will regroup and fix what needs to be fixed and come back stronger again," said Noriega.

Looking at some of the good coming out of the game, he was pleased that even after falling behind 2-0 early and being somewhat rattled, the team battled back and played well to draw level, as the opposition was also giving them chances.

“I knew at some point we would have come good and take some of the chances, which we did, so I was glad for that. I also thought we would have pushed on from the two goals we scored, but again in this tournament, like it's just not falling for us and as I said before, there is work that we need to do. We have to look in the mirror and try to rectify it as best and as quickly as possible for when the league (T&T Premier Football League) restarts."

About his halftime changes, "I felt I would have gotten more joy with the wing-backs pushing on, and for some reason, the boys and they were hesitant to go forward in the first half. So, I thought the changes I made would get the wingbacks and them to open up the pitch a little wider for the men in the middle of the park, so that was the reason behind the changes."

Noreiga gave the opponents their due saying: “They played well in spurts, and they did their job. They came to Trinidad, and they got the result, so hats off to them that they did what they had to do."

With one match left to play against fellow T&T club and reigning national champion Defence Force at the same venue on September 28, Noreiga said his team will always go into their matches with pride and passion.

"No matter that we can’t advance in the competition, we will try to finish and do our best, get some of the youngsters exposed and try to build from this tournament," said Noreiga.

SOURCE: T&T Guardian