Trinidad and Tobago’s senior footballers remained undefeated on their tour of Africa when they enjoyed the better of the openings in a 0-0 draw with Botswana’s senior team at the National Stadium in Gaborone on Tuesday evening.
The encounter turned out to be T&T’s toughest of their four matches so far since arriving in Africa on May 27 but once again, failure to put away the scoring chances proved to be the “Soca Warriors” downfall in front of the 5,000 odd fans which had a “Trini” posse of about 30 fans backed by a rhythm section.
Playing against a Botswana team coming off a slim 1-0 loss to Libya in an African Cup of Nations Qualifier last Saturday, T&T never let their guards down but still a win was theirs for the taking on the eve of a trip to Port Elizabeth for the more important international against South Africa next Saturday.
The home team, coached by Yugoslavian Jelusic Veselin, was the one having the first look at goal inside the seventh minute when Maho Mabago’s header went over bar from a left side corner.
Soon enough T&T settled into their own and had the Botswana defence busy as the game approached the 15th minute. Silvio Spann, playing just behind strikers Nigel Pierre and Hector Sam in a 3-4-3 system, proved to be a weapon in T&T’s play that should have done more damage, maybe with a more luck involved. The former Italian-based player had Botswana goalkeeper Kagso Thelamesi rising to the occasions as he whipped several inswingers from both flanks.
A foul on Pierre allowed the ex-St Benedict’s College skipper to drive a 25 metre free kick inches wide of the left post. A minute later as Sam tumbled over on the left, Spann took the kick which swung in powerfully on the near post and Sam’s volley rebounded off the crossbar before being scrambled to safety.
Less that five minutes passed following that scare for the “Zebras” before Spann again was causing trouble. Another inswinging free kick from near the left corner had Thelamesi rushing backwards to push around his near post.
T&T didn’t let their gears down and in the 18th minute as Reynold Carrington’s defence broke down an attack, Spann and Mulraine combined on the counter but Pierre’s effort on goal was saved low by the ‘keeper.
It was all one way traffic at this point and Nigel Daniel was on the end of a knock back by Spann following a long throw out by Williams, but his late shot from the penalty spot was blocked by a defender.
As the interval approached, Botswana went close on a couple occasions. Duncan Kgoshiang almost punished T&T for failing to deal with a high ball from the right. Luckily his volley from point blank range flashed past the left post. On the stroke of halftime, Masego Nishantane made Williams save a low free kick. Defender Brent Sancho was steady as ever with Keyeno Thomas tidy on the left and Travis Mulraine and Dale Saunders marshalling the central midfield.
The second half saw Botswana contented on packing more in defence and T&T’s chances on goal were limited. Mulraine shot wide from the top edge of the box on 55 minutes. Twice within the 66th minute, T&T had further chances. First it was Pierre shooting over bar and then Sam’s low crack went across the goal from the left of the box. Pierre’s best effort should have brought the winner with fifteen minutes remaining when he used his stronger physique to win a long ball with two defenders challenging and turned only to hit inches over back with his outer right foot from the left edge of the box.
T&T’s performance was good enough to leave Miss Botswana 2003 Boingotlo Motlalekgosi smiling as she viewed the game from the covered section. “For me, I think your guys did well. Hopefully they can keep it up in your next game against South Africa,” she told TTFF Media.
Stuart Charles Fevrier would hope though that his “Soca Warriors” can get it better come next Saturday on the back of other 1-1 and 2-0 results in Kenya and a 1-0 win in Soweto.
Coach Stuart Fevrier said “I felt as a team we made progress once again. The players showed signs of improvement in their concentration and the team organization and passion was good. But we still need to improve our transition game in terms of transforming from defence to attack. We were better changing from attack to defence but we need more offensively.
This is the area we need to work on. I was most pleased about the fact that we were consistent throughout the ninety minutes and I felt it was our best performance of the tour so far,” Fevrier told TTFF Media. “I thought it was a fair result because Botswana also enjoyed a good performance.” The St Lucian expects his “Soca Warriors” to rise to the occasion come Saturday when T&T faces South Africa.
“The South Africa leg is obviously the biggest of the tour because this country has the biggest profile of all the teams we have faced. But I feel the bigger the game, the better the players will play. They are showing signs of improvement in every game,” he added. The T&T contingent will leave for Johannesburg by bus on Wednesday morning at 7 am (1:00am T&T time) from where they will then have a one hour flight to Port Elizabeth.
T&T Line Up:
Jan-Michael Williams, Reynold Carrington, Keyeno Thomas, Brent Sancho, Silvio Spann (Conrad Smith 88th), Travis Mulraine, Carlos Edwards, Hector Sam (Jason Scotland 80th), Nigel Pierre, Dale Saunders, Nigel Daniel.
Subs Not Used:
Derek King, Peter Ramon Fortune, Kerwyn Jemmott, Avery John, Anton Pierre.
Clayton Ince and Collin Samuel were out with abdominal and ankle injuries respectively.