Trinidad and Tobago’s World Cup Russia 2018 aspirations came to an end on Tuesday night in Panama City as they went down 3-0 to Panama at the Estadio Rommel Fernandes.
Playing before just under 20,000 fans, Panama got goals from Gabriel Torres in the 39th, an own goal by Carlyle Mitchell in the 57th and a third item from Abdiel Arroyo in the 83rd minute.
Head Coach Dennis Lawrence kept four players in his starting team from Friday’s 2-1 loss at home to Honduras with Kevin Molino, Joevin Jones, Kevan George and defender Sheldon Bateau, who wore the captain’s armband retaining their places.
T&T had a positive start to proceedings, once again getting the first real try on goal with Willis Plaza driving an effort wide in the early stages of the game. Panama struggled to settle as T&T looked much more purposeful than they did in the early parts of last Friday’s encounter and managed to keep Panama from causing much problems in their penalty area.
But Panama would strike first after a T&T right side corner was cleared and Torres outfoxed George and Curtis Gonzales with a run from just inside Panama’s half of the field which he completed by clinically hitting past a hapless Marvin Phillip in goal to spark wild celebrations among the home fans.
T&T did not allow Panama to take complete control though and a Nathan Lewis effort in the 49th minute forced goalkeeper Jose Calderon to save low down. But fortune didn’t favour Lawrence’s men as just as it appeared that the visitors would make a fight of it, defender Carlyle Mitchell misguided an intended headed clearance into his own goal from a Alberto Quintero right side cross.
A key moment in the game came in the 70th minute when a low shot by substitute Khaleem Hyland was not held cleanly by Calder, rebounding into Plaza’s path but the striker somehow manage to clip the ball onto the crossbar on its way out from inside the six-yard box.
Arroyo completed the win with Panama’s third goal seven minutes from full time.
Panama’s win pushed them to third place and dropped the United States into fourth place in the World Cup qualifying standings and set the stage for a massive match between the Panamanians and Americans on Oct. 6 at Orlando City Stadium.
If the Americans win that game, they then have to must another victory over T&T on October 10th. A draw in the last game could also do the trick for the US depending on the outcome of Panama’s final match Oct. 10 at home against Costa Rica.
A Panama victory in Orlando would clinch the third spot and send the Americans scrambling for fourth place. A U.S.-Panama draw would leave the race very much up in the air.
So no matter what happens October 6th against Panama the U.S. fate will be settled in T&T in the final game.
Five minutes from securing the third spot Tuesday, Honduras is now fifth and in need of points in remaining matches at Costa Rica and home vs. Mexico.
Panama 3 (Gabriel Torres 39, Carlyle Mitchell 58 Own-Goal, Abdiel Arroyo 83) v T&T 0
Trinidad and Tobago: - 1.Marvin Phillip (GK); 16.Nathan Lewis, 4.Sheldon Bateau (capt) (Yellow 20), 12.Carlyle Mitchell (Yellow 61), 6.Radanfah Abu Bakr (Yellow 67), 17.Mekeil Williams; 10.Kevin Molino, 19.Kevan George (8.Khaleem Hyland 50th), 15.Curtis Gonzales, 3.Joevin Jones (7.Cordell Cato 62nd); 9.Willis Plaza (Yellow 76) (11.Tyrone Charles 77th).
Subs not Used – 21.Jan-Michael Williams (GK), 22.Adrian Foncette (GK), 2.Aubrey David, 5.Daneil Cyrus, 13.Kevon Villaroel, 18.Triston Hodge, 20.Jamille Boatswain, 23.Leston Paul.
Head Coach: Dennis Lawrence.
Panama: – 12.José Calderón (GK); 2.Michael Murillo, 4.Fidel Escobar, 5.Román Torres (capt) (23.Felipe Baloy 80th), 17.Luis Ovalle; 6.Gabriel Gómez (22.Abdiel Arroyo 72nd), 20.Anibal Godoy; 19.Alberto Quintero (11.Armando Cooper 82nd), 9.Gabriel Torres, 8.Édgar Yoel Bárcenas; 7.Blas Pérez.
Subs not Used 1.Alex Rodriguez (GK), 3.Roberto Chen, 10.Ricardo Buitrago, 13.Adolfo Machado, 15.Eric Davis, 16.Jose Gonzales, 18.Luis Tejada, 21.Roberto Nurse.
Head Coach: Hernán Gómez
Referee: Henry Bejarano (Costa Rica).
P W D L F A -/+ Pts
Mexico 8 5 3 0 11 3 +8 18
Costa Rica 8 4 3 1 12 5 +7 15
Panama 8 2 4 2 7 5 +2 10
United States 8 2 3 3 12 11 +1 9
Honduras 8 2 3 3 9 16 -7 9
Trinidad & Tobago 8 1 0 7 4 15 -11 3
Goodbye Russia: T&T’s lingering W/Cup hopes go down the Panama Canal after 3-0 loss
By Lasana Liburd (Wired868).
Trinidad and Tobago’s 2018 World Cup qualifying campaign is well and truly over now.
The Soca Warriors lost their sixth successive match last night as they fell 2-0 to Panama in Panama City; and it proved to be the final nail in their coffin, as it is now impossible for coach Dennis Lawrence’s troops to advance to Russia, despite having two qualifiers to spare against Mexico and the United States.
Trinidad and Tobago had a perfect World Cup qualifying record against Panama before last night with five wins from as many outings. But Lawrence and his troops would have been under no illusions as to the size of the task.
The rookie six foot seven coach rang in the changes with six alterations to his starting team—only defender Sheldon Bateau and midfielders Kevan George, Joevin Jones and Kevin Molino kept their places from Friday’s 2-1 home defeat to Honduras—while he swapped their 4-1-4-1 formation for 5-4-1.
He would have been reasonably encouraged too after the first half hour, as the Warriors created two half-chances for striker Willis Plaza—neither of which ended with a shot on target—and won frequent free kicks down either flank by Kevin Molino and Joevin Jones.
Lawrence might have expected to trouble Panama from set pieces with Sheldon Bateau, Carlyle Mitchell, Radanfah Abu Bakr and Mekeil Williams all in the starting line-up and capable in the air. But, instead, the Warriors repeatedly failed to deliver testing crosses into the box, with Jones particularly culpable.
Ironically, Panama capitalised directly from a Trinidad and Tobago set piece in the 39th minute as Gabriel Torres sprinted half the length of the pitch—easily outfoxing Curtis Gonzales and Kevan George on the way—before finishing between the legs of goalkeeper Marvin Phillip.
Winger Nathan Lewis, who gave a decent showing at right wing-back, tested opposing goalkeeper José Calderón with a low shot at his near post in the 49th minute.
But the mood darkened considerably for the Warriors when Carlyle Mitchell inadvertently headed past his own goalkeeper in the 57th minute off a cross from Panama winger Alberto Quintero. Panama 2, T&T 0.
The Warriors ought to have halved the deficit in the 70th minute when s Calderón inexplicably spilled a shot by Trinidad and Tobago substitute Khaleem Hyland from outside the six-yard box.
The ball dropped fortuitously for Plaza in the six-yard box and the India-based forward, who had followed up smartly to get the chance in the first place, clipped his first-time effort over the fallen goalkeeper, only to watch it rap the bar before going over.
After that, there was never going to be a way back. Bateau kept Panama at bay in the 83rd minute with a superb last-gasp challenge on opposing midfielder Édgar Yoel Bárcenas from a counter-attack.
But, seconds later, Panama substitute Abdiel Arroyo cut in off the left flank and beat Phillip with a right-footed strike that deflected off Mitchell.
The emphatic 3-0 scoreline almost doubled Panama’s goal tally in the Hex in a single night. The Central American nation had scored only four goals in their seven previous competitive games combined.
The result, coupled with the United States’ 1-1 draw away to Honduras, pushed Panama into third spot and gave them a real chance of joining Mexico and Costa Rica as automatic qualifiers for the Russia World Cup. It would be their first appearance at a senior FIFA tournament.
For Trinidad and Tobago, the next two qualifiers will be joyless affairs, the first away to Mexico on 6 October and the last at home to the United States on 10 October.
The Warriors can conceivably play the role of spoilers as, should they hold the US to a draw, they can force the North American nation to settle for a FIFA Play-off spot or even miss out on the showpiece 2018 tournament altogether.
But there is now no way for the Trinidad and Tobago Warriors to achieve their initial goal and get to Russia themselves.
World Cup Dream Ends
By Mark Bassant, T&T Express.
The writing had been on the wall for some time now. And on Tuesday night, Panama moved one step closer to their first ever World Cup by trouncing Trinidad and Tobago 3-0, leaving the “Red Army” at the bottom of the CONCACAF table and their chances of qualifying for next year’s World Cup in Russia 2018 having evaporated. The loss left coach Dennis Lawrence’s men on three points and catapulted Panama to third spot with ten points, after the USA and Honduras battled to a 1-1 draw earlier in the night in Honduras, leaving them locked on nine points apiece.
Lawrence made at least six changes to the team after the Honduras encounteron Friday and hoped for better fortune, knowing anything but a win would eliminate them. Even in an imposing atmosphere as at the Estadio Rommel Fernandez in Panama City, surrounded by a sea of red Panamanian fans, T&T got off to a positive start.
Willis Plaza had the opening chance in the third minute for the visitors, having broken away and cutting inside the right, flashed his shot wide of the goal. Ten Minutes later, Plaza again gifted a chance only to swerve his shot wide.
Possible play down the flanks by the visitors with Joevin Jones was cause for optimism. But Panama created a chance of their own in the 36th minute when Edgar Yoel Barcenas unleashed a powerful shot from on top the 18-yard box that sailed inches over the crossbar. But three minutes later, Panama would not be denied on a counterattack.
Gabriel Torres, with a Usain Bolt-like display, burst past Curtis Gonzales just inside the half-line area and then kept Kevan George at bay as he slotted the ball past Marvin Phillips to give his team a 1-0 lead. Panamanian fans roared and with it, their drink cups flew into the air. Not dismayed by the setback, the Warriors, with a pep talk from Lawrence, came out in a postive and lively mode in the second half in search of an equaliser which they almost found, compliments of Nathan Lewis in the 51st who made an incisive run inside the 18-yard box on the right, but his grounder was saved by Panama’s goalkeeper Jose Calderon.
Six minutes later, the wounded visitors fell further behind in the most heart-breaking way. The pacey Alberto Quintero, sprinting down the right, swung in a dangerous cross at the far post. Trinidad and Tobago defender Carlyle Mitchell, in attempting to the clear the ball, only found the back of his own net, beating a hapless Phillip. Panama 2-0.
Mitchell buried his face into a shirt. The dream of Russia was clearly over and nothing now but a figment of the Red Army’s imagination.
WIllis Plaza had a golden opportunity in the 71st minute to hand his team a lifeline after Calderon spilled a shot from substitute Khaleem Hyland in the six-yard box. Plaza, attempting to chip the shot over a fallen Calderon, amazingly hit the crossbar. It summed up the Warriors’ performance on the night.
Their fortune was all but consigned in the 83rd minute when Panamanian substitute Abdiel Arroyo, with a flashing run down the left, cut inside and unleashed his shot that beat Phillip after a slight deflection off T&T defender Mitchell.
At the final whistle, the Panamanian flags waved proudly and the sea of red danced and clanked their glasses as they made a historic step to a first ever World Cup. The T&T players, in white, trudged off a beaten team that must now regroup and refocus for Qatar 2022.
Build better Warriors foundation now
Editorial, T&T Guardian
All of Trinidad and Tobago, and sporting fans in particular, are today hurting over the Soca Warriors’ elimination from 2018 Russia World Cup contention. A slim mathematical chance existed before then, but the dream was finally shut to T&T on Tuesday night when Panama cruised to a 3-o win against them at the Estadio Rommel Fernandes in Panama City.
The result would not have hit home as hard had stand-in skipper Sheldon Bateau’s men given a much better effort in this match and in the previous one against Honduras at the Ato Boldon Stadium.
The psyche of fans yesterday was low, as they recalled how easily the team—after showing some initial promise and hope for a desired result—surrendered goals against the Panamanians.
In this regard, Tuesday’s result was a bitter pill to swallow for both fans and coach Dennis Lawrence.
Lawrence tried hard to keep his emotions contained during the post-match press conference. But in eventually accepting his side had been outplayed, he offered, “We have to find a way to dust ourselves off as soon as possible and move on. We have to start looking ahead to the future.”
Truth be told, this was the team’s seventh straight defeat in the Concacaf Zone final round qualification table, leaving them with just three points and two games left. Mexico (18 points) have already qualified for Russia while Costa Rica (15 pts) and Panama (10) are in position to secure the other two automatic spots.
The only consolation for T&T now is to perhaps deny the United States (9 pts) an automatic qualifying spot, if they (US) are in this position then, as the Americans did to T&T in 1989 when they denied then skipper Clayton Morris’ team a place in the 1990 World Cup in Italy with a 1-0 victory at the Hasely Crawford Stadium.
But even now, on the basis of what they have seen of team T&T, the fans know achieving this is a fleeting dream. Lawrence’s men have managed only flashes of brilliance in their current run in the “Hexagonal” series. Consistency has been a major issue and but for a few bright areas, the team has always been behind the eight ball, especially against the more technically versed teams.
Of course, there are now those calling for Lawrence’s head. They are pointing to the team’s run under former coach Stephen Hart, noting he was able to bring the team to a level where it was felt they could challenge the best in the Concacaf region.
But harping on the past will do the neither the fans not the team any good and it is the future we must now look towards. Lawrence already recognises this, noting he has to put together a team for the 2019 Caribbean Cup campaign.
Of course, the ultimate goal will be to ready a young core for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar. In that regard, the T&T Football Association is facing a critical decision—whether to give Lawrence a chance to build for the future or end his tenure now and hand that responsibility to another candidate.
There are other things which have to be assessed as well. The TTFF is still unable to finance its own way, with a trickle down effect being its inability to fund teams’ preparations for tournaments like the World Cup and retaining and paying quality coaching staffs. Then there is the talent pool and how we develop it from the youth level upwards.
This newspaper hopes that the right decisions will now be made. We have seen what the Soca Warriors’ qualification for the 2006 World Cup in Germany did for the country and we would love to return to that place.