Thu, Feb
Match Report
Trinidad & Tobago Antigua and Barbuda
T&T flag Antigua and Barbuda
Evans Wise (3')
Stern John (55')

Concacaf Gold Cup Qualifier
2003-03-26Hasely Crawford StadiumPort-of-Spain, Trinidad and Tobago6000

Warriors top Gold Cup group

Three points, two goals and one clean sheet. It was a game and result right out of the handbook of Trinidad and Tobago Football Federation technical director Hannibal Najjar.
The “Soca Warriors” rarely dazzled nor did the Antigua and Barbuda outfit look like being torn to shreds in the second match of the CONCACAF Gold Cup qualifying double-header at the Hasely Crawford Stadium on Wednesday evening.

But there were no scares either for the host team as T&T cruised to a 2-0 win and a commanding position in Group B, which also includes Cuba and Guadeloupe.

It is a place that Najjar intends to hold on to despite what he expects to be a tricky test from Guadeloupe from eight o’clock tonight at the Marvin Lee Stadium, Macoya.

“Guadeloupe is going to be a tough nut to crack,” said Najjar. “I think Guadeloupe has a style and athleticism which reminds me of Nigeria.”

The talkative technical director is prone to exaggerating the strengths of his opponents, but his employers are unlikely to mind too much once he gets the job done.

Their Wednesday win would have merited few points for style or inspiration but the Warriors never looked in danger of embarrassing the 4,000 spectators present either.

The Antiguans had hoped to frustrate the opposing offence by remaining compact and denying them space.

However, the visitors barely lasted three minutes before being forced to pick the ball from the back of their own net, and it was all downhill from then.

Still, it was a fortuitous item.

Trinidad and Tobago winger Evans Wise—much maligned in the past for his over-elaboration on the ball—marked his unexpected recall to national duty with a speculative effort at goal from outside the penalty area.

Opposing stopper George “Sours” Dublin, who campaigned with local Pro League team Joe Public, stuck out a boot in defence and the ball took a telling deflection past goalie Janiel Simon.

The Antiguans still had loads of time to contrive an equaliser, but it was clearly beyond the realm of their limited talents and they were restricted to infrequent long-range efforts.

“We were too timid in attack,” said Antiguan coach Ivor Luke yesterday. “We showed too much respect for the Trinidad team and that was the problem.”

The Antiguan timidness did not extend to their defensive efforts, where the outfit used what Najjar described as “flying fish tackles” to keep the Warriors at bay for much of the match.

In retort, Najjar never switched from his own conservative approach, which saw Falkirk striker Collin Samuel operate as a lone forward ahead of Stern John—who was used as a deep-lying attacker—and central midfielder Brent Rahim.

Defence Force utility player Anton Pierre was used as a libero, offering additional support for a four-man defence that was never seriously tested.

“I did not want anybody to get too adventurous going forward,” said Najjar, by means of explanation.

Yet the Warriors were still able to find enough space to do serious damage, with John often the chief instigator.

Birmingham City manager Steve Bruce may have scoffed at his leading scorer being employed so far from goal, but John’s insightful passes and presence compensated somewhat for the absence of a genuine playmaker in a red shirt.

The failure of Wise, Samuel and Carlos Edwards to finish from inside the area after a clever diagonal John pass in the 18th minute could easily be forwarded to a commission of enquiry.

Another John through pass offered loads of room for Edwards down the left flank, at the stroke of halftime, and Samuel was harshly adjudged offside when he headed home the resulting cross.

John, who already has a regional record of 17 Caribbean Cup goals, took matters into his hands 11 minutes after the interval.

Edwards initiated the move with a deep right side cross and Samuel rose high to head down for the “Baron of Birmingham”.

John, who had made a point of shying away from the physical stuff throughout the contest, neatly pivoted with his back to goal before rifling emphatically into the roof of the net.

Five minutes later, Antigua were a player down, as well, after Rackley Thomas was shown his second yellow card for a brutal hack on Rahim, and defeat was inevitable.

Facing a now battered opponent, Najjar responded by offering caps to newcomer Hayden Fitzwilliams and the Defence Force duo of Kurt Williams and Jason Scotland, rather than aiming for the jugular.

Wise, whose performance fizzled after a generous start, was the first to be replaced, although Najjar explained that the left winger took one knock too many on his ankle.

Captain Marvin “Dog” Andrews was also substituted as a precaution after a tweak in his thigh.

Scotland came close to increasing the lead with a rising shot on the turn that cleared the crossbar but Najjar was content with his second win in four internationals.

“The coal miner’s approach was there,” said Najjar. “Most people should be contented with at least seeing an organised team and could excuse us for not being as exciting as we could be with the little time we had together.

“I would rate that performance as 7 and 1/2 from 10 with all aspects considered.”

Better may be required, though, against a Guadeloupe team with a better idea of the location of the opposing goal.

1.Selwyn George
4.Subbed outMarvin Andrews (capt.)
 Subbed in 82' Kurt Williams
2.Craig Demmin
6.Avery John
3.Dennis Lawrence
5.Anton Pierre
7.Carlos Edwards
11.Brent Rahim
14.Stern John
19.Subbed outCollin Samuel
 Subbed in 76' Jason Scotland
9.Subbed outEvans Wise Yellow Card 30 '
 Subbed in 55' Hayden Fitzwilliams
18.Hayden Fitzwilliams
15.Kurt Williams
10.Jason Scotland
22.Marlon Sylvester
16.Dwayne Demmin
13.Devon Mitchell
8.Andre Toussaint
 Hannibal Najjar
55'Subbed outSubbed inHayden Fitzwilliams for Evans Wise
76'Subbed outSubbed inJason Scotland for Collin Samuel
82'Subbed outSubbed inKurt Williams for Marvin Andrews
30'Yellow CardEvans Wise