Trinidad and Tobago’s Senior footballers were given a fair enough challenge on Sunday night in Basseterre as they pulled off a 3-2 victory over St Kitts/Nevis courtesy of a 72nd minute from Joe Public striker Kerry Baptiste.
The victory was the first for Russell Latapy since he took over the reign of the National Team but he would have preferred it to be a much easier one to attain and it should have been just that after the “Soca Warriors” surged to a 2-0 first half lead and should have been three up before half time had it not been for a missed penalty by Baptiste who was partnered up front by Devon Jorsling from the start.
Latapy felt good about the victory in the friendly international but added that the bigger focus remained on August 12 against El Salvador.
“It was a good exercise for us. We needed to play in a competitive environment and I needed to see what level a few of my players were on at the international stage. I was quite happy with some of the areas of play we had in the game but obviously there are some areas we need to improve on and we will work on rectifying this in the near future,” Latapy told TTFF Media.
“The focus remains on August 12 and I will now assess what happened here in tonight’s game and then we will continue to work ahead of the game against El Salvador. St Kitts did have a pretty decent run and I say congrats to them because it meant we didn’t have a stroll in the park today.
“We will now go back to the training ground and continue working hard and prepare ourselves to try and win on August 12,” Latapy added.
Playing on a hard surface at Warner Park, the visitors took early control of proceedings as the St Kitts team were more intent on trying to play the quick ball in and hope to get over the T&T back line which was marshaled by Radanfah Abu Bakr on the evening and well supported by Keyeno Thomas, Kern Cupid and Aklie Edwards. Captain Trent Noel led the team from the middle of the park alongside Ataullah Guerra, Hayden Tinto and Hughtun Hector who made his senior international debut. Both Guerra and Abu Bakr also got their first senior international goals for T&T.
St Kitts actually had the two opening tries at goal but neither troubled goalkeeper Marvin Phillip while on the other end Tinto had an effort over bar from way out on the right and Guerra had a weak effort wide of the near post following a good penetrative run down the left channel.
St Kitts forward George Isaac was the familiar face to the T&T players having played in the T&T Pro League but despite a few quick surges and a busy-like appearance of the hosts they never had T&T under pressure.
The opening goal came in the 23rd minute when a right side corner by Baptiste fell perfectly for Abu Bakr to clinically side foot past goalie Akile Byron from just inside the six yard box. Then seven minutes later T&T doubled their advantage when a right side cross was partially cleared and Ataullah Guerra hit a one time right footed volley from just on the edge of the 18-yard box low into the net with Keyeno Thomas getting a faint touch on the ball as it made its way goalwards.
T&T were cruising at that stage but an all too familiar occurrence as they failed to finish off the opponents and subsequently allowed them back into the affair. And some doubtful calls by hometown referee James Manhew didn’t help T&T by any means.
It begun with Baptiste’s penalty which was pushed onto the crossbar by Byron moments before the break.
W Connection and St Kitts’ Gerard Williams was their most dangerous player on the evening and he had a one time effort which flashed past Phillip’s goal in the 45th.
St Kitts were not prepared to go down without a fight and pulled a goal back in the 48th minute when a ball was floated over from the left deep into the area and was nodded back in to the feet of Ian Lake and he wasted little time before slamming into the net from close range.
The equalizing goal had a better build up to it and Gerard Williams got behind of the T&T defence in the 62nd minute to pick up possession and turned well before firing low past Phillip from just atop the six yard. It sent the home fans wild and suddenly St Kitts were now hopeful of a victory on the evening.
But T&T kept its composure and didn’t go into a panic mode. Midfielder Clyde Leon was introduced along with Andre Toussaint while Latapy also made an appearance in the 74th minute, replacing Guerra.
The eventual winner came when Edwards made his way up the left, evading a couple challenges in the process before squaring for Baptiste to nail home from close up in the 72nd minute. The same Baptiste also missed a sitter after Toussaint, who initially decided against shooting from a point blank range, instead choosing to pass for his teammate who dragged his effort wide.
Overall, the encounter proved to be a good workout for the “Soca Warriors” but was certainly not one which should have required the extra work for the win.
T&T: 1.Marvin Phillip, 4.Radanfah Abu Bakr, 5.Keyeno Thomas, 14.Kern Cupid, 3.Aklie Edwards, 8.Trent Noel (capt), 13.Ataullah Guerra, 10.Hayden Tinto, 12.Hughtun Hector, 9.Devon Jorsling, 12.Kerry Baptiste.
Subs Used: 7.Russell Latapy, 11.Andre Toussaint, 2.Clyde Leon.
See Game Highlights
Latapy's post game comments