An 89th minute goal by Central FC winger Shaquille Nesbitt sealed a 2-0 win for Trinidad and Tobago’s National Men’s Under 20 team over Puerto Rico in their opening Group A final round CFU World Cup Qualifying fixture at the Waterhouse Mini-Stadium, Kingston on Monday.
Nesbitt’s goal came after a series of second half misses by T&T which kept Puerto Rico in the game until the final minute. The win left T&T atop the Group A table ahead of Haiti on goal difference after they defeated Curacao 2-1 in the second match on Monday.
Lone forward Shackiel Henry, who missed Presentation College’s Big Four Final on the same day, opened the scoring for T&T in the 34th minute.
The former T&T Under 17 forward placed a low right footer past goalkeeper Matthew Sanchez after Adan Noel did the bulk of the build up, skipping past four challenges before playing the ball into Henry’s path. Noel suffered a hamstring strain in the process and had to be replaced by 16-year-old Akeem Garcia who later turned provider for Nesbitt’s goal.
Puerto Rico came into the final round after defeating Barbados and Bermuda and holding Haiti in the first stage and appeared confident of posing a stiff challenge to Ross Russell’s men. They should have found themselves trailing as early as the first minute had Henry not dragged a right footer wide of the far post.
T&T looked more likely to get the go ahead goal but skipper Duane Muckette had a 22nd minute penalty saved low by Sanchez after defender Alvin Jones was pulled down inside the box on a right side corner. Soon after, T&T got a scare when Deniz Bozkurt forced T&T custodian Quesi Weston to make his first save of the match. Reid Strain also had a good look at goal within two minutes.
T&T would break the deadlock through Henry thanks to Noel’s charge towards the box from near the half line.
Puerto Rico faded in the second half as T&T took control of proceedings. But the number of chances squandered surely would have left Russell and Technical Director Anton Corneal pondering the introduction of a coach to deal with chance conversion and shot accuracy.
The inability to make use of their chances could lead to terminal failure particularly against stronger opposition and is a problem that evidently affects T&T’s other national teams.
Jomal Williams missed a couple sitters and Henry showed his teammate how to miss even simpler chances in the 54th and 61st.
After controlling well, with the goal at his mercy, he failed to beat Sanchez and then sent a left footed effort wide from inside the six-yard box after Muckette swung one over from just outside the penalty box.
Garcia and Shaquille Holder as well as Nesbitt also let Puerto Rico off the hook as the game approached the closing ten minutes. Meantime the T&T defence marshaled by Alvin Jones was ensuring all was safe at the back as Puerto Rico tried in vain to sneak one against the run of play.
Eventually Nesbitt stabbed home a left footer after Garcia whipped a cross over from the right to make sure of the win.
Russell knows that Wednesday’s clash with Haiti at Waterhouse from 6pm T&T time could decide the group winner. A win will most certainly put T&T into CONCACAF’s final round next year in Puebla Mexico from which the top four nations will advance to the 2013 FIFA Under 20 World Cup in Turkey.
“It’s quite obvious that this game against Haiti could decide the group and we know that if we can get a victory then it will put us through to the next round. But we would like to win all three games and we ‘ve started on the right note with the win today,” Russell told TTFF Media after the win.
“I’m happy for the three points but it was a bit disturbing to see how poor we were in the finishing department and we will definitely need to work on that. I don’t think the guys followed some of the instructions but a win is a win and we have to move on from here and try to get it right for the remainder of the tournament,” added the ex-national goalkeeper.
Captain Muckette agreed that T&T needed to polish up a bit.
“The win was important but I don’t think we played as well as we should have. We missed too many chances to put the game out of their reach and a better team may not allow us to get through like we did today.
Hopefully we can continue improving as the tournament goes on,” said the 1st Santa Rosa FC player who arrived in Kingston the previous day after sitting a SAT exam. Curacao meets Puerto Rico in the opening game from 4pm (T&T time) on Wednesday.
T&T: - 20.Quesi Weston, 2.Anthony Charles, 3.Alvin Jones, 5.Damani Richards, 6.Adan Noel (14. Akeem Garcia 38th), 7.Neil Benjamin, 8.Duane Muckette, 10.Jomal Williams, 11.Xavier Rajpaul (19.Marcus Gomez 83rd), 15.Shaquille Nesbitt, 17.Shackiel Henry (12.Shaquille Holder 63rd).
Unused Subs: – Kevin Dodds, Shannon Gomez, Keane McIvor, Garvin Samaroo.
Coach: - Ross Russell (T&T).
Puerto Rico: - 1.Matthew Sanchez, 4.Emilio Cordero (Yellow 23), 2.Carlos Rosario, 3.Thomas Flecha, 10.Joseph Marrero, 19.Juan Coca, 8.Emmanuel D’Andrea, 11.Deniz Bozkurt (5.Neekoli Calderon 57th), 17.Alex Oikkonen, 9.Reid Strain (12.Jose Abrams 46th).
Coach: - Jeaustin Campos (Costa Rica).
Referee: - Kevin Morrison (Jamaica).
Video: - Highlights l Extended Highlights.
Venue: - Waterhouse Stadium, Kingston - Jamaica.
P W T L GF GA GD Pts
Trinidad & Tobago 1 1 0 0 2 0 +2 3
Haiti 1 1 0 0 2 1 +1 3
Curaçao 1 0 0 1 1 2 -1 0
Puerto Rico 1 0 0 1 0 2 -2 0