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T&T go under to Costa Rica in closing Group A match.
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Trinidad and Tobago’s Under 20 Women team ended their 2018 Concacaf U-20 Women’s Championship campaign on a losing note, going down 2-1 to Costa Rica in the closing Group A encounter at the Ato Boldon Stadium on Monday night.

After taking an early 1-0 lead for the third consecutive match, the Jamaal Shabazz-coached team surrendered to their opponents, eventually finishing their three matches without a point to show. Canada came away 4-0 winners over Haiti in the earlier match to finish top of Group A with nine points ahead of second placed Haiti (six points) as both teams advanced to Friday’s semi-finals.

T&T scored against the run of play in the 37th minute. Jaasiel Forde sent a lead pass from the right flank into the box to Dennecia Prince, who slotted the ball through the legs of goalkeeper Nicoles Genis for a 1-0 lead and her team-best second goal of the tournament.

Only two minutes after she came on at the half, Fabiola Villalobos made an impact by equalizing on a penalty kick after goalkeeper Klil Keshwar took her down in the box. Villalobos smashed her shot into the upper left corner to knot the score at 1-1.

In the 56th minute, Stephannie Blanco booted a free kick from the Costa Rican side of the field that glanced off the head of Trinidad’s Shenieka Paul toward the net. The ball bounded to Hillary Corrales on the left side as the midfielder deftly used the outside of her right foot to redirect into the goal before colliding with Keshwar.

T&T coach Shabazz, said there was a lot to take out of the tournament for T&T as he spoke during the post-match press conference.

“Interesting challenge and the ladies played their hearts out tonight, Shabazz said. “I’m very satisfied that they gave of their best and it was unfortunate after leading (1-0) that we would go down because of a penalty.  I’m not one to complain about the referees  but I think the girls gave a great account of themselves.“

“I think the teams in this competition have shown a higher level of intensity than our team and it’s something we’ve got to develop in the female game,  to be a lot more intense and to be able to make more football actions. But I think also we have been very unfortunate with some decisions, you know, it was so, so unfortunate and I feel sorry for my young ladies tonight because as I said, tonight I wish I was a FIFA referee.”

Shabazz commented on forward Dennicia Prince who scored two goals for T&T in the competition.

“She’s had some explosive moments and you can see a player, with a lot of fitness, and a higher level of fitness achieved by her, she is a player ready to graduate to the senior team. And from this exercise you can see, about five or six of them going to the senior level so at least we can see that the exercise is a good one”

“Of course we learn from this and we have a program and this is one tournament(you know) we have senior team in training, we have an U-15 team in training and the next week we start the U-18s again for the next U-20. You know we’ve got to learn our lesson from this and be very honest with ourselves and know that we’ve got to make a better preparation going forward and try to prepare a team that could be more intense in the battles.”

When asked to comment about why T&T could not maintain its focus and physical levels throughout matches in other to achieve desirable results, Shabazz said it was problem beyond the football pitch as well.

“Well I think it’s not just the football, it’s our society. We have to become a national where when the hard time comes we show more resilience. It’s a training and we’ve got to improve the battles on the training pitch and in doing so it can be transformed onto the field.  Also I think we need to be able to get them playing a little bit more so that they understand the atmosphere at the next level. But all known the positive of this is that at least half of this squad can play U-20 again; so blows that don’t break the back will certainly strengthen it.”

Extras – Match Story

Game Two of matchday 5 featured host nation Trinidad and Tobago coming up against  Costa Rica. A modest crowd gathered in anticipation at the Ato Boldon stadium to witness the final performance of the young warriors in this Concacaf U-20 championship tournament. Despite having only pride to play for, both teams boasted strong starting lineups; both coaches determined to walk away with their first points of the tournament.

This fixture got off to a tame start, with both teams exercising caution in their build up play. From the get go, T&T skipper, Ranae Ward, and midfield anchor Shenieka Paul had their hands full with Costa Rican maestro, Glorianna Villalobos, whose technical proficiency and skill on the ball proved too illusive for the T&T contingent. Winger Aaliyah Prince and striker Lauren Theodore continued to be a perpetual source of excitement and energy to both team and fans, hunting down every loose pass and driving at the heart of the opposition defense when in possession. However, T&T’s standout on the night was striker Dennecia Prince who used her size, strength and speed to bully the Costa Rican defenders playing a pivotal role in T&T’s best chances.

Despite T&T’s ambitious strike force, it was Costa Rica who controlled most of the proceedings, swinging the ball comfortably from end to end. Inside the first five minutes, striker Hillary Corrales found herself played in behind the T&T backline. With only the ‘keeper to beat, she unselfishly squared the ball to fellow striker Catalina Estrada who, if not for the heroic defending of tournament debutant Crystal Molineaux, would have certainly put Costa Rica in the lead.

T&T were not to be easily outdone though, mounting surging attacks of their own. Incisive passing by the impressive Ward, often ended with measured through balls being rolled into the path of the charging (Dennecia) Prince, whose speed and work rate earned her a number of free kicks in dangerous positions. T&T unfortunately lacked the decisive quality needed in their final product and were unable to convert any of these opportunities.

The tempo in the first half took a casual dip as T&T began to give the Costa Ricans time and space in the middle of the park. This lapse in work rate was almost punished when neat interplay, led by Villaslobos, ended with a driven shot that brought out the best in keeper Klil Keshwar. It was clear that these teams were fairly balanced, but slow decision making and a general lack of energy was disrupting the rhythm of both contingents.

Costa Rica often found themselves beating T&T to the ball and getting themselves in more dangerous positions. However, individual mistakes and over complicated passing often resulted in Trinidad and Tobago being gifted the opportunity to launch swift counter attacks. If it weren’t for some wayward passing the final third and poor decision making in crucial moments, T&T would have certainly found themselves in the driver’s seat, earlier on in the game.

Despite the “tug-of-war” nature of the contest, it was T&T that got the go-ahead goal. Phenomenal composure in the back by Alexis Fortune set the stage for a tidy passage of play involving both Ward and Paul. An overlapping Jaasiel Ford was released into space and her lofted through ball fell to the feet of Dennecia Prince. With unshakable composure, Prince brilliantly took the ball in stride and rounded her defender before slotting calmly under the diving Costa Rican custodian. 1-0 T&T as they began to burst into life with the now vociferous fans fully getting behind their team.

Not long after, another dangerous break for the red, white and black ended with winger Kedie Johnson seeing her spectacular half volley parried haphazardly around the Costa Rican post. A brilliant effort matched by an equally brilliant save.

T&T continued to look lively before the half but were almost punished when Estrada was able to evade her marker and latch onto a illaslobos, through ball that carved open the T&T backline. Her attempted toe prod, however, drifted agonizingly wide. Going into the half, the scores remained unchanged with T&T, a goal to the good.

The second half saw two key attacking changes for Costa Rica. The introduction of the physically imposing Priscilla Chinchilla and the tenacious Fabiola Villaslobos added a whole new dynamic to the Costa Rican offense. So said, so done. The sheer hustle and determination of Fabiola Villaslobos drew the foul from Keshwar in the T&T goal and earned her a penalty, mere minutes after coming on. She assertively stepped up to the task and confidently blasted home her effort to pull Costa Rica level.

The half time changes clearly injected new life into the visitors as the entire team began to engage in more determined pressing further up he pitch. A meandering run through the T&T defense by Glorianna Villaslobos brought out the best in Keshwar, who raced off her line bravely to deny the Costa Rican captain.

Despite the best efforts of Fortune and her sturdy backline, T&T, unfortunately, were finally undone. A lofty freekick by center back Stephannie Blanco was mistimed by Paul, who unintentionally flicked the cross toward her own goal. The ball fell invitingly for striker Corrales who made no mistake in punishing T&T and granting the visitors a 2-1 lead.

As the game progressed, Costa Rica continued to peg T&T back further and further back. Moments of uncharacteristically nervous handling by Keshwar in goal, led to heart stopping moments for the T&T fans. But, whenever there was a turnover, the resolute defence led by the outstanding Alexi Fortune served to preserve the 2-1 scoreline and keep T&T within striking range of the Costa Ricans.

The remainder of this fixture saw T&T continue their steadfast defending, forcing Costa Rica to attack from wider positions. The fans were treated to intermittent moments of tidy play from the soca princesses but ultimately T&T struggled to convert possession into meaningful attack. As the clock winded down, T&T attempted to muster a last-ditch effort. Substitute Chelcy Ralph produced a moment of magic, rounding four players on her own and forcing a corner. However, the resulting delivery was cleared to safety, effectively sealing the victory for Costa Rica. The final result, T&T 1 – Costa Rica 2. (Report by matchtracker Renaldo Garcia)

(Teams by Wired868)

Trinidad and Tobago (4-4-2): 1.K’lil Keshwar (GK); 12.Jaasiel Forde (16.Kelsey Henry 61), 17.Alexis Fortune, 2.Crystal Molineaux, 3.Shadi Cecily Stoute; 10.Aaliyah Prince (19.Chelcy Ralph 73), 11.Ranae Ward (captain), 13.Shenieka Paul, 14.Kedie Johnson; 7.Dennecia Prince (15.Asha James 67), 9.Laurelle Theodore.

Unused substitutes: 20.Malaika Dedier (GK), 5.Nathifa Hackshaw, 6.Shaunalee Govia, 8.Megan Rampersad, 18.Brittney Williams.

Coach: Jamaal Shabazz

Costa Rica (4-2-1-3): 18.Nicoles Genis (GK); 5.Fernanda Sanabria (16.Priscilla Chinchilla 46), 15.Stephannie Blanco, 3.Jeimy Unaña, 6.Maria Paula Elizondo; 19.Daniela Coto (8.Mariela Campos 75); 10.Gloriana Villalobos (), 13.Cristal Sandi (7.Fabiola Villalobos 46); 12.Kenlly Villalobos, 17.Catalina Estrada, 14.Hillary Corrales.

Unused substitutes: 1.Fabiano Solano (GK), 2.Maria Paula Salas, 4.Maria Paula Coto, 9.Sofia Varela, 11.Juliet Navarro, 20.Yaniela Arias.

Coach: Amelia Valverde (Costa Rica)

Referee: Ekaterina Koroleva (United States)

CONCACAF Player of the Match: Gloriana Villalobos (Costa Rica)

Post-Match Press Conference - Shabazz after 2-1 loss to Costa Rica

CU20W: Trinidad & Tobago vs. Costa Rica