Wed, May

Trinidad and Tobago's Darius Ollivierra holds off a challenge from a United States player during a 2024 Concacaf Futsal Championship match at Polideportivo Alexis Arguello, Managua, Nicaragua on Saturday, April 13th 2024.

DEFENCE Force winger Darius Ollivierra scored two cleverly improvised efforts as T&T fought hard but went under 7-4 in their opening Group C match at the Concacaf Futsal Championships in Nicaragua on Saturday.

The result saw USA take an early lead in the standings, with a one-goal advantage in goal-difference over Guatemala, who also picked up three points after a 6-4 win over the Dominican Republic in the second fixture.

Ollivierra gave T&T an early, unexpected lead, dribbling the length of the court after intercepting a pass and rifling his effort into the top of the goal.

T&T’s defence tried to protect the lead but they were breached after ten minutes when David Ortiz capitalised on a loose ball from a scramble in front of the goal to finish beyond goalkeeper Andre Marchan.

Nilton De Andrade put USA ahead about three minutes later, finishing a clean strike after beating his opposite number-three, national senior men’s football team midfielder Michel Poon-Angeron, with some stepovers.

USA struck again just seconds before the end of the first period, with Ortiz finishing neatly from a low cross for his second goal.

But just as they had done in the first half, T&T enjoyed the upper hand in the opening stages of the second. Ollivierra cut the deficit for T&T to 3-2 with an even more spectacular effort, when he beat a defender and sidestepped the goalkeeper, finishing with a deft touch.

Yet T&T would concede only moments later when Marchan and his defenders appeared distracted, appealing for a USA hand-ball during an attempted defensive clearance.

Diego Burato cheekily lobbed his effort over a diving Marchan, who unsuccessfully hounded the assistant referee, hoping for a delayed call.

T&T pulled another goal back when AC Port of Spain midfielder Che Benny converted a penalty kick with a powerful strike beyond a helpless USA goalkeeper.

The Americans scored three more, but T&T still closed on a high, scoring a consolation goal, which could be crucial if the advancing teams are to be determined on goal difference.

Matthew Woo Ling, one of five Defence Force players on the squad, came out of nowhere to connect and score from close range, after a cleverly executed Benny free kick.

The futsal team will return to action on Sunday morning to face Guatemala, before taking on the Dominican Republic in the final group match on Monday. Both matches will kick off at noon (T&T time).

The top two teams will automatically qualify for the knockout round, together with the two best third-placed teams from the three groups. The top four teams will represent Concacaf at the FIFA Futsal World Cup Uzbekistan 2024.

SOURCE: T&T Newsday