Tried they did, but St. Kitts & Nevis’ best was not good enough to curtail the rampaging Soca Warriors from claiming another victory in front of their home crowd at the Marvin Lee Stadium on Friday night.
St. Kitts & Nevis fought bravely but the home team, without many of their overseas based stars, was still able to take the win, underlining their status as a powerhouse in regional football.
Both teams made a number of adjustments to their starting line ups for this clash. T&T opting to start with Avery John who played his first game in this competition while first game substitutes, Andre Toussaint, Scott Sealy and veteran Arnold Dwarika aiming to claim a place in the World Cup squad, all started.
The Kittitians looked a different unit against T&T than when they played Guyana on day one when they were very defensive. They were taking the attack to the Soca Warriors and came very close to taking the lead in the 10th minute when Jevon Francis’ shot sailed over the cross bar.
Scott Sealy too had a good shot on goal in the 23rd minute for Trinidad but his effort was saved by Akil Byron. St. Kitts were matching their Caribbean counterparts in offense play for play but it was not going to be too long before the most successful team in regional football would break the deadlock.
In the 37th minute, Keon Daniel easily tapped home for T&T’s opening effort. One minute later, on another enterprising run, Daniel hit the cross bar with a powerful left foot shot having already beaten goal keeper Byron.
With four minutes to the break, Byron went wildly out of his goal and was lucky that Arnold Dwarika’s shot went wide of the mark.
The home team maintained their dominance of the Kittitians in the second period and came close to increasing the lead in the 51st and 55th minute when substitute Cornel Glen’s skillful effort hit the side of the nets.
But their constant investment in offense was soon to earn them some interest with back to back goals aided by some sloppy work between the uprights from Byron.
First it was Khaleem Hyland in the 65th minute, Byron fumbling the ball which eventually eluded his grasp and went over the goal line. One minute later, in almost similar circumstances, substitute Devon Jorsling added his name to the score sheets. Byron though, brought some excellent saves as shots were fired by the T&T marksmen almost at will.
Jorsling’s goal sealed the deal for the Soca Warriors who will now face Guyana in their final group game on Sunday evening having already secured their place in the DCC Finals.
St. Kitts & Nevis though, never gave up and scored a consolation goal four minutes before time, compliments of hard working forward, Jevon Francis. In the three minutes of added on time they tried desperately to add another one but that did not materialise. They like Guyana, remain on one point.
Trinidad and Tobago: - 21.Marvin Phillip, 3.Avery John, 4.Makan Hislop, 6.Khaleem Hyland, 8.Cyd Gray, 9.Aurtis Whitley (capt), 10.Andre Toussaint (18.Devon Jorsling 61st), 11.Scott Sealy (13.Cornell Glen 46th), 14.Julius James, 15.Arnold Dwarika (12.Lester Peltier 46th), 19. Keon Daniel.
Subs: - 1.Glenroy Samuel, 2.Clyde Leon, 5.Keyeno Thomas, 16.Seon Power.
St. Kitts & Nevis: - 1.Akil Byron, 2.Keithroy Richards, 4.Sheldon Lawrence, 6.Kareem Harris, 7.George Isaac (capt), 9.Jevon Francis, 10.Ian Lake, 11.Gerrard Williams, 13.Thrizen Leader (Rovan Wigley 82nd), 14.John Queeley (18.Tiran Hanley 68th), 17.Shashi Isaac (Orlando Mitchum 60th).
Subs: - 3.Earl Jones, 5.Aiden Nurse, 8.Stephen Clarke, 21.Kaiyan Benjamin.
Referee: - Enrico Wijngaarde (Suriname).
T&T through to Caribbean Cup Finals.
By: Ian Prescott (Express).
All Trinidad and Tobago have to do is to get a point against Guyana tonight and finish atop Group H to ensure they enter the easier of two groups at the 2008 Digicel Caribbean Cup Championships (DCC), which take place in Jamaica from December 3-14.
On Friday night, the Soca Warriors became the seventh qualifiers for the eight-team Caribbean Finals following a 3-1 victory over St Kitts-Nevis at the Marvin Lee Stadium, Macoya, which left them out front in their qualifying series with a maximum six points from two matches. And should they finish atop the standings after today's final round, T&T would enter what seems the easier Caribbean Finals group, containing hosts Jamaica, Grenada and Barbados.
A second-place finish in Group H will see Trinidad and Tobago facing a tougher preliminary schedule against Caribbean champions Haiti, in-form Cuba, and 2007 CONCACAF Gold Cup semi-finalists Guadeloupe.
The 2008 Caribbean champs will earn a first prize of US$120,000, the runners-up pocket US$70,000, while US$50,000 goes to the third place team and US$30,000 for fourth. The top four will also advance to next year's CONCACAF Gold Cup in the United States.
Antigua-Barbuda also gave themselves a realistic chance of earning the final spot after they edged Guyana 2-1 in the first game of Friday's double-header. But each of Antigua-Barbuda, Guyana, and St Kitts-Nevis could still qualify should they win today.
T&T's point might well end up being hard-earned, even against Guyana, who they have beaten five times this year.
Head coach Francisco Maturana got the improved showing he was hoping for against St Kitts-Nevis two nights ago, but his mainly locally-based team is still a work in progress. The Soca Warriors are scoring three goals when they could have half-dozen, and also conceding against mediocre teams.
It took the home team 37 minutes to break down St Kitts-Nevis, before midfielder Keon Daniel regained his scoring touch, finishing Cyd Gray's low cross with a crisp shot.
Daniel also hit a sweet left-footer onto the opposition's crossbar and later a cross bounced off the body of central midfielder Khaleem Hyland in the 64th, hit the post, and rolled into the St Kitts-Nevis goal to give T&T a 2-0 lead.
Three minutes later, substitute Devon Jorsling only had to guide the loose ball over the line after St Kitts-Nevis keeper Akil Byron spilled a low shot.
Between the goals, Trinidad and Tobago produced a few eye-catching misses, including when Cornell Glen miscued a pin-point cross from second-half substitute Lester Peltier away from a wide-open citadel.
Finally, a competitive St Kitts-Nevis were rewarded for their hard work when Jevon Francis had the ball in the T&T net on the second attempt in the 85th to bring the score to 3-1.
T&T keeper Marvin Phillip had produced a brilliant first save, but had no answer for the follow-up attempt.
Once again, Maturana shuffled his pack and had a look at Toronto FC central defender Julius James, who held his own. Scott Sealy, Cyd Gray, Avery John and veteran midfielder Arnold Dwarika all started, while Peltier looked penetrative up the right when given his first senior cap in the second half. Captain Aurtis Whitley and Khaleem Hyland also played the entire game, getting much needed match practice.
Toussaint liberates Warrior faithful.
By: Lasana Liburd (Express).
Trinidad and Tobago place a high premium on entertainment. The country of calypso and Carnival loves a good party.
There may be several reasons for repeated low attendances at international fixtures but, almost certainly, the lack of artistry from the "Soca Warriors" has played a part in a romance that has grown stale between national footballers and supporters.
Dutchman Leo Beenhakker's workmanlike outfit was the most successful in T&T's history, but it was a relationship of convenience. The class of 2006 took its supporters to the World Cup and was loved for it.
Everald "Gally" Cummings' "Strike Squad" was adored just for showing up. The cheek of Russell Latapy, athleticism of Leonson Lewis, mystique of Brian Williams, swagger of Dexter Francis and calm leadership of Clayton Morris touched a chord that meant more than just three points.
It might be too cynical to state that national supporters merely turn up because of patriotic duty these days. But the levels of antipication attached to a trip to the match venue are surely lowered.
Yet, there were times in Friday night's Digicel Caribbean Cup fixture when spectators sat up and idle chatter died. Almost exclusively, it was when Andre Toussaint had possession of the ball.
Trinidad and Tobago won 3-1 against St Kitts, by the way, but that was incidental. Local fans should expect no less against an average team in a competition of such significance that Dwight Yorke played less than a handful of Caribbean Cup games in his 20-year career.
But Toussaint's appeal had nothing to do with his opponents. There was something in the way the W. Connection striker cradled the ball that would make football lovers blush. His balance and poise seemed reminiscent of a buoy, which is advantageous as the Trinidad and Tobago midfield often looks at sea.
Captain Aurtis Whitley has just returned from injury and would presumably need a few more games to regain his aura, while 35-year-old Arnold Dwarika is tidy on the ball but no longer has the change of speed to scare defenders and teenager Khaleem Hyland is essentially a bouncer-albeit one with delightfully quick feet.
It leaves Keon Daniel and Toussaint to provide the bit of flair that locals crave. The former has a bright future ahead. He is left-footed, technically sound and a clever passer.
But Toussaint, who, at 27, is six years older than Daniel, is more polished in his trade. His body language offers an air of serenity and, even at full pace, he never appears hurried.
Of course from a functional viewpoint, Toussaint is expendable. In coach Francisco Maturana's crowded frontline, Toussaint lacks Cornell Glen's searing pace, Jason Scotland's strength, Kenwyne Jones' aerial prowess and Stern John's menace.
Toussaint's 28 international appearances so far yielded an average five goals, while Daniel, from midfield, has six items from 22 outings.
Perhaps he could be more ruthless within the offensive third of the field. Maybe he should charge the penalty box more or be more selfish.
But, on Friday, Toussaint's selfless link up play and movement made the Warriors a better passing team and a more watchable one.
Maturana's motive for using him might be selfish-his job is to win games not pander to the public-but at least one observer was pleased with his inclusion.
Late Argentine poet Jorge Luis Borges was once asked to defend the value of his craft.
"What is a sunshine for?" Borges asked his interviewer. "What are caresses for? What is the smell of coffee for?"
Intuitively, Trinidad and Tobago football fans agree. If not, Latapy would not be hailed as the country's greatest player. Toussaint is no Latapy but, in these artistically impoverished times, he will do just fine.