Fri, Jun

Joshua Figaro of T&T, left, competes for the ball with Kyler Vojvodic of Canada during the Group F match between the teams in the CONCACAF Men's Under-17 Championship, held at the Pensativo stadium, in Antigua City, Guatemala on Saturday, February 11th 2023.

Trinidad and Tobago's Under-17 boys football coach Shawn Cooper has praised his team’s fight in a 3-2 defeat to Canada in their opening match of the Concacaf Men’s Under-17 Championship at the Estadio Pensativo in Guatemala on Saturday.

The US defeated Barbados 5-0 in the second group match on the evening to lead the group heading into Monday’s clash with T&T at 9 pm T&T time.

T&T suffered an early blow when English-born Rio Cardines was shown a straight red for a handball offence near the goal. From the resulting penalty, goalkeeper Ailan Panton came up big with a low save to his left to deny Kyler Vojvodic.

“It was a great response from the boys after going a man down,” Cooper said.

“We showed resilience and played for a result nevertheless. I think we started off very nervous especially when playing out of the back. I have seen us do it much better. There were too many misdirected passes.”

Vojvodic, who plays with the Vancouver Whitecaps Academy, redeemed himself in the 27th minute, tapping in a low cross past Panton after a dummy run by Lucas Ozimec, to give Canada a 1-0 lead.

Panton made a diving save to stop a Chimere Omeze shot in the 59th minute but was beaten two minutes later when, after a short corner, Gael de Montigny found an unmarked Omeze and the Toronto FC Academy forward headed the ball home.

T&T pulled a goal back when substitute Malachi Webb beat the offside trap for a breakaway before dribbling around onrushing goalkeeper Nathaniel Abraham. Webb’s angled shot just beat a chasing Canadian defender into the goal.

But Canada hit back as Vojvodic roofed a shot from just inside the penalty box one minute later to restore Canada’s two-goal lead.

Lindell Sween made it interesting in the 80th minute, curling a beautiful free kick from outside the penalty box over the Canadian wall and past a diving Abraham.

Speaking more about the red card, Cooper said, “I think the sending off of Rio affected the team’s confidence especially being double penalised for still a questionable handball. Several officials at the game thought it was too close to call especially in real time. We looked back at it and frame-by-frame photos showed Rio’s hand in the air but Panton’s hand played the ball in front of Rio’s hand.

“We just paid the price for his hand position and we have to move on from it. I think the lack of experience to settle after that incident showed for a while and the first goal came shortly after.”

Cooper said he was proud of his team’s effort in the second half. “As a coach you can’t ask for more from the boys after the first half. They played with good spirit and after a tactical change at the half we fought to get back into the game. We pulled a goal back but immediately lost concentration after scoring, which I think went down as a lack of experience, knowing you are most vulnerable when you have just scored.

“The plus is we played 70-plus minutes and never gave up. I think we should all commend the boys for that effort. They won the hearts of the spectators who were present, by the ovation they got after the game. This was not the best game I have seen them play but the effort was second to none, which shows the character within the squad.”

SOURCE: T&T Newsday