Trinidad and Tobago’s Under 20 Men’s Team achieved its first mission of advancing to the Final Round of the Caribbean Football Union World qualifiers after securing a 1-1 draw with St Lucia at the Ato Boldon Stadium on Sunday night to top Group Two of the opening round.
An equalizing goal in the 62nd minute by 15-year-old DirecTV W Connection midfielder Isaiah Hudson, his third goal of the three-match series, cancelled out Cassius Joseph’s 39th item which had earlier given the visitors the lead heading into half time.
Needing a draw to top the group, having a superior goal difference following Friday night’s 11-0 win over Turks and Caicos, T&T looked in control of the match in the first half but seemed to lack that bit extra to pull away from their stubborn opponents.
St Lucia did have a good look in on goal in the 20th minute with Cassius Joseph and Noah Nicholas combined but the latter could not get enough on his effort to beat goalkeeper Jabari Brice who was in for the injured Jadel Poon-Lewis. Nicholas was the double scorer in St Lucia’s 2-0 win over T&T at the CFU Under 17 Finals in 2014. And he looked St Lucia’s most dangerous player on the night keen on hurting T&T again. But not this time.
St Lucia had other ideas as they stunned the hosts with the go ahead goal six minutes from the break. Nicholas did the hard work on the left before finding Joseph inside the box and he stabbed home his second attempt after his initial effort was blocked by Brice. The goal would have had to serve as a wake up call for Brian Williams’ team.
T&T’s best efforts came near the half hour mark when Noah Didier had to be alert to keep out shots by Noah Powder and Hudson as they tried to give T&T the edge.
Three minutes into the second half T&T’s Kathon St Hillaire had an ambitious effort from the top of the box which went over bar and three minutes later Nicholas almost punished the home team with an attempt that was deflected away for a corner. A second then then would created an uphill task for T&T.
T&T persisted and would grab the equalizer when substitute Jarred Dass, moments after replacing Morgan Bruce, sent a good looking delivery over from the left and Hudson clinically directed his effort into the net to tie the scores.
Dass later had a shot on goal which Didier saved and the custodian came up big again in the 76th minute to tip over a shot by Mitchell. A 1-1 stalemate in the end proving sufficient for T&T to move ahead in the qualifiers.
Head Coach Brian Williams stated afterwards that their main goal was to qualify for the CFU Finals to be staged in Curacao in October.
“I was pretty pleased as we achieved our objective of topping the group. I must say St Lucia played a pretty good game and they gave us a good challenge. Now we have some time to do some more work because we spent about three weeks screening players before we got down to the preparations for this tournament. And we will be looking to improve before the next set of matches.
“Offensively we wanted to maintain the same kind of strategy that we used against Turks and Caicos. We could have done better defensively because I know that area of the team, especially in the central defensive area, no disrespect to our two stoppers, we know that one of the weak areas in the team and we have to do some work there,” Williams added.
“Now we will give the players two weeks off and then we will resume preparations on July 6th with about three months or so left before the next phase. We will be looking to strengthen our weak areas and of course we will be welcoming a couple more players back into the team and also possibly looking at other players who we think could bring some quality to the side. All in all I must say well done this team and for the fact that we were able to complete the task in three games.”
Williams said he will be looking closely at the training arrangements during that period as it relates to players involved in playing for the colleges and clubs.
He said that Jerren Nixon jnr is expected to be involved again after suffering an injury during a try out with the T&T team a few weeks ago and he added that Dutch-based winger Levi Garcia has indicated an interest in joining the team. Keston Julien is also expected to return following an overseas trial in Holland.
Guadeloupe topped Turks and Caicos 5-0 in the earlier game on Sunday to finish the group in third place on three points, behind St Lucia (7 pts) and group winners T&T (7 pts).
T&T will join hosts Curacao and six other teams in the Final Round in October from which five teams will advance to the CONCACAF Finals in Costa Rica in October. Four teams will then qualify for the 2017 FIFA Under 20 World Cup in South Korea.
Trinidad and Tobago: 20.Jabari Brice (GK); 3.Kori Cupid, 4.Kierron Mason, 5.Taryk Sampson, 6.Noah Powder; 7.Isaiah Hudson, 10.Jabari Mitchell (capt), 11.Kareem Riley; 19.Morgan Bruce (8.Jarred Dass, 61st), 9.Nicholas Dillon, 15.Kathon St Hillaire (17.Rushawn Murphy, 70th).
Unused substitutes: 1.Jadel Poon-Lewis (GK), 2.Andrew Rullow, 12.Shane Sandy, 13.Isaiah Garcia, 14.Yohannes Richardson, 16.Micah Lansiquot, 18.Jacob Sookal.
Coach: Brian Williams
St Lucia: 20.Noah Didier (GK); 2.McCathur Louis, 6.Melvin Doxilly, 18.Cherdam Seraphin, 3.Keeroy Lionel; 19.Alvinus Myers, 15.Ryi Maryat (capt), 4.Zachernus Simon, 11.Antoine Wilfred (12.Kerry Joseph 41st [14.Jamie Prosper 73rd]); 10.Cassius Joseph; 7.Noah Nicholas.
Unused substitutes: 1.Viannie George (GK), 16.Vino Barcelette (GK), 5.Dante Hippolyte, 9.Tev Lawrence, 13.Albertini Phillip, 17.Selwyn Boyce.
Coach: Albert St Croix.
Referee: Kerry Skeeple (Antigua).