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17
Fri, May

Trinidad and Tobago striker Kevon Woodley (L) shoots at goal while under pressure from Guyana’s Jeremy Grant during a friendly match at the Hasely Crawford Stadium in Port of Spain, on Monday night. - Daniel Prentice
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TRINIDAD and Tobago got the perfect start in their two-match friendly series versus Guyana on Monday night, as they earned a 2-1 win at the Hasely Crawford Stadium, Mucurapo.

In a game being used as preparation for T&T's Fifa 2026 World Cup qualifying campaign that starts with a home match against Grenada on June 5, a few local players gave a good account of themselves against the Jamaal Shabazz-coached team.

A pair of debutants Kevon "Showtime" Woodley and Ezekiel Kesar notched first-half goals for T&T, while Guyana got an item early in the second half from their danger man Kelsey Benjamin after a horrible mix-up at the back by the hosts.

The visitors settled into the game nicely, and the tricky Benjamin was more than a handful for the T&T defenders in the first half. After shooting over bar in the second minute, Benjamin set up a chance for midfielder Darron Niles in the 26th minute, but T&T defender Robert Primus made a heroic block at the back.

Seconds later, the hosts had another warning shot when the burly Ryan Hackett rippled a left-footed shot into the side netting after the T&T defence failed to deal with a corner.

The period of pressure from the Guyanese team seemed to spring coach Angus Eve's Soca Warriors into action, as the hosts took the lead in the 28th minute when Kesar slotted past Jamine Cumberbatch after receiving a neat through ball from Daniel David.

Kesar, Heritage Petroleum Point Fortin Civic's leading goal scorer in the TT Premier Football League (TTPFL), was one of three debutants in the T&T starting lineup alongside David and TTPFL top scorer Woodley.

The 37-year-old Woodley was a late addition to the Soca Warriors squad for the friendly matches, and he delivered the goods on his maiden outing when he expertly placed a right-footed shot into the bottom corner in the 39th minute after receiving a pass from Kesar at the end of a sweet left-side move.

Woodley, once a standout for T&T in the beach soccer arena, needed just one chance to replicate his 16-goal TTPFL form, and there was only going to be one outcome when the big Tobago striker had Cumberbatch's goal in his sights.

Woodley lasted 67 minutes in his T&T debut, and his goal aside, the striker showed decent hold-up play and showed spurts of the skill he has become known for on the local circuit over the years.

Eve made a switch in goal at the halftime interval as Adrian Foncette replaced Christopher Biggette. The veteran Police FC goalkeeper had to pick the ball out of his net just two minutes into the second half as Benjamin calmly scored from close range after an intended back pass for midfielder Kevon Goddard went straight into the Guyanese player's path.

Guyana's early second-half goal gave them a clear boost, while T&T's intensity and fluidity in their passing game dropped off after several substitutions.

In the 61st minute, T&T had one of their best chances in the second period when Isaiah Lee was played through on goal by David. However, the striker sent a tame left-footer into Cumberbatch's grateful arms with Woodley unmarked in the middle.

In the 71st minute, the hosts' blushes were spared after another mix-up, as Niles wildly shot over bar after miscommunication between Sheldon Bateau and Matthew Woo-Ling at the back. The nervy moments continued at the back for the Soca Warriors, as left back Ross Russell Jr made an emphatic block to deny a goal-bound shot from substitute Marcus Tudor in the 83rd minute.

There was an element of desperation to the Warriors' defensive play in the dying moments, while they also spurned a couple of chances at the other end. However, at the final blow of referee Kwinsi Williams' whistle, the hosts were able to celebrate a 2-1 triumph.

On Wednesday, the teams will battle again from 7 pm at the same Mucurapo venue.

(Squads)

Trinidad and Tobago (4-3-3): 1.Christopher Biggette (GK) (21.Adrian Foncette [GK] 46), 2.Liam Burns, 4.Sheldon Bateau (captain), 12.Robert Primus, 3.Ross Russell Jr; 13.Daniel David (24.Simeon Bailey 76), 18.Kevon Goddard, 16.Matthew Woo Ling (20.Adriel George 76); 9.Ezekiel Kesar (15.Lindell Sween 67), 23.Kevon Woodley (11.Josiah Wilson 67),7.Isaiah Lee (19.Brent Sam 82).

Unused substitutes: 5.Josiah Trimmingham, 6.Andre Raymond, 14.Jabari Mitchell, 17.Justin Garcia.

Coach: Angus Eve

Guyana (3-5-2): 1.Jamine Cumberbatch (GK); 14.Curtez Kellman, 19.Quincy Adams (16.Nicholai Andrews 70), 4.Jeremy Garrett (21.Colin Nelson 42); 2.Leo-Orion Lovell, 6.Darron Niles (23.Simeon Moore 70), 15.Ryan Hackett (8.Chris Macey 63), 17.Daniel Wilson (captain), 20.Amos Ramsay (5.Terique Mohammed 46); 10.Stephen McDonald (7.Marcus Tudor 54), 11.Kelsey Benjamin (9.Anthony Smith 70).

Unused substitutes: 18.Simon Emanuel (GK), 22.Amari Thompson (GK), 3.Kevin Layne, 12.Solomon Austin, 13.Bevan Baker.

Coach: Jamaal Shabazz

Referee: Kwinsi Williams.