Fri, Sep

Trinidad and Tobago's Nathaniel James (#11) celebrates after scoring the winning goal against Curaçao in a Concacaf Nations League match at the Hasely Crawford Stadium on Thursday, September 7th 2023. Alongside him is midfielder Kristian Lee-Him (#23).

NATHANIEL “Natty” JAMES made a dream debut as Trinidad and stole a late and dramatic 1-0 home win over Curacao in their opening League A match of the 2023-2024 CONCACAF Nations League last night, at the Hasely Crawford Stadium.

Playing his third senior international, the 19-year-old Club Sando striker was on spot, when burying a low shot past keeper Trevor Doornbusch in the 87th minute. Another relative newcomer and substitute left-back Andre Raymond made the cross, Ryan Telfer headed it down, and James needed just a second to decisively drive the ball in.

At the other end, it also took another piece of brilliance from goalkeeper Denzil Smith, another relative newcomer to keep T&T ahead, the Club Sando keeper pulling off a match-saving stop in the 90th minute.

T&T’s exhilarating moment only came after a full shift of hard defending. It was one where the Soca Warriors were forced to defend heavily, especially in the first half, before being more dangerous in the second. Only one goal was ever going to win the match and it went to the home team.

The Soca Warriors went in after the first half goalless, thanks mainly to a strong defensive performance. Curacao dominated possession, showing the benefit of having experienced and quality footballers like captain Leandro Bacuna, who played last season in the English Championship with Watford and others who have been with top clubs worldwide.

T&T offered nothing up front for the first quarter-hour, until Telfer ran onto Neveal Hackshaw’s precise over-the-top pass, got by defender Juriën Gaari, but lost composure when it was time to strike.

Curacao deliberately probed the wide positions, with right-back Shannon Gomez put under constant pressure by Kenji Gorre, the Qatar-based midfield who played five years at Swansea in England and another three with Portuguese giants Boavista (2021-2023). Likewise, left-winger winger Kaile Auvray spent a lot of the first half defending, something he does not particularly like. But T&T did not break, and even with almost two-thirds possession, Curacao had almost no menacing shots at rookie goalkeeper Smith.

What the Soca Warriors did well, was win free-kicks and corners; Curacao stopping every attempt to go forward made by the elusive Auvray and diligent, hard-working striker Malcolm Shaw. As a result, captain Aubrey David got the chance to loop three headers over the bar from Telfer’s corners, and when Shaw spectacularly scored with a bicycle kick late in the first half, the goal was disallowed, defender Justin Garcia adjudged to have climbed all over his marker before redirecting a header towards Shaw.

Typically, it was Auvrey’s forward running which almost gave the Soca Warriors a breakthrough, when cutting inside and just missing the far corner in the 52nd minute. Twenty minutes later, substitute Reon Moore was sprung by Telfer’s pass down the middle but put a lot shot wide, possibly the best chance of the match, until James’ late winner.


Trinidad and Tobago (4-2-3-1): 22.Denzil Smith (GK); 14.Shannon Gomez, 2.Aubrey David (captain), 17.Justin Garcia, 3.Ross Russell Jr (6.Andre Raymond 68); 15.Neveal Hackshaw,  8.Daniel Phillips (10.Duane Muckette 55); 7.Ryan Telfer, 18.Andre Rampersad (23.Kristian Lee Him 83), 20.Kaïlé Auvray (11.Nathaniel James 82); 19.Malcolm Shaw (13.Reon Moore 68).

Unused substitutes: 1.Christopher Biggette (GK), 21.Jabari St Hillaire (GK), 4.Jesse Williams, 5.Kevon Goddard, 12.Kareem Moses, 16.Michel-Poon Angeron, 9. Brent Same

Coach: Angus Eve

Curaçao (4-1-2-3): 23.Trevor Doornsbuch (GK); 15.Nathangelo Markelo, 3.Jurien Gaari, 10.Leandro Bacuna (captain), 5.Sherel Floranus; 8.Godfried Roemeratoe (4.Rolieny Bonevacia 70); 20.Kevin Felida, 7.Juninho Bacuna (21.Justin Ogenia 56); 18.Jearl Margaritha, 17.Brandley Kuwas (9.Jafar Arias 70), 14.Kenji Gorre.

Unused substitutes: 1.Nino Fancito (GK), 22.Tyrick Bodak (GK), 6.Nathan Holder, 12.Jaron Vicario, 16.Elson Hooi, 19.Giovanni Troupee.

Coach: Deon Gorré

Referee: Steffon Dewar (Jamaica)

SOURCE: T&T Express