Fri, May

Densill Theobald spoilt a good return to the Trinidad and Tobago senior team by missing a penalty, but two others who were also given an international reprieve by head coach Francisco Maturana made full use by scoring in a 2-0 victory over the Netherlands Antilles on Thursday night at the Marvin Lee Stadium, Macoya.
Andre Toussaint, who last saw action in the 2007 CONCACAF Gold Cup, broke stubborn Netherland Antilles resistance with a clever, individual goal in the 63rd minute. And 2006 World Cup reserve Anthony Wolfe came on as a substitute for lone striker Cornell Glen five minutes from the end and headed home the Soca Warriors' second from Kerry Baptiste's corner-kick in added on time.

Overall, it was an improved showing on what Trinidad and Tobago did against Guyana the week before, although the Netherlands Antilles did not provide the intense pressure which their hosts will need for the upcoming CONCACAF semi-final leg of 2010 World Cup qualifying.

However, a stiffer test awaits on July 30 at the Marvin Lee Stadium, where T&T continue the build-up to the opening qualifier away to Cuba on August 20 with a friendly against the Panama national team. That match may likely see the return of Trinidad and Tobago World Cup players Chris Birchall, Avery John and Silvio Spann.

On Thursday night, Maturana utilised the same 4-5-1 system as against Guyana , but there was a lot more fluidity to it. As a result, the home team maintained a good spell of possession and created several openings, but wasted a couple scoring opportunities. Theobald and Clyde Leon did a good job of organising the play from central midfield, while the return of Cyd Gray at right back gave the defence a more solid look to it.

The visitors were restricted to just two dangerous moments. The first, a powerfully-hit, swerving free-kick which challenged T&T keeper Marvin Phillip, who did well to keep the ball out of his net. And in the second half, Benjamin Martha blew past Caledonia AIA newcomer Gyasi Joyce, but Phillip made the save. Again starting Glen as the lone front man, Maturana obviously banked on wide men Baptiste, on the right, and Keon Daniel, on the left, providing plenty attacking support. Baptiste did his part, was particularly elusive and fed Glen three good crosses, all of which were turned wide.

However, Daniel did not provide the balance in attack because of his natural disdain for getting behind defenders on the left flank. However, before Toussaint replaced him at the start of the second half, Daniel whipped in a couple good crosses, one of which Baptiste headed wide at the back post.

Glen won Trinidad and Tobago a penalty in the 24th minute, when he raced into the area and was bundled over by defender Richenell Dooran. However, Theobald, captain of the national team for much of last year, wasted the chance when his nonchalantly-struck shot was held by Marcello Pisas, the Netherlands Antilles goalkeeper.

Early in the second half, Trinidad and Tobago finally had the ball in the net when central defender Keyeno Thomas scored at the back post, but his effort was ruled off-side.

The breakthrough finally came when Toussaint used the goal-line to ease past defender Curtly Hooi and with the keeper expecting him to cross from the acute angle, the W Connection striker instead scooped the ball into the net. Two minutes later, Marcello turned a low shot around the post from Khaleem Hyland, who was set up when Theobald flicked on Baptiste's pass.

T&T deserved a second goal and got it when Wolfe met Baptiste's corner-kick with a flicked-on header. The victory showed that Trinidad and Tobago continue to be the dominant team in the Caribbean, but there is still room for improvement if they are to assert themselves in CONCACAF as well.

T&T: - 21.Marvin Phillips, 3.Aklie Edwards, 4.Makan Hislop, 5.Keyeno Thomas, 6.Khaleem Hyland, 8.Cyd Gray (capt) (15.Gyasi Joyce 74th), 10.Kerry Baptiste, 13.Cornell Glen (7.Anthony Wolfe 84th), 17.Clyde Leon, 18.Densill Theobald, 19.Keon Daniel (11.Andre Toussaint 46th).
Brilliant or bullies?
...Warriors battle mediocrity.
By: Lasana Liburd (Trinidad Express).

Unknown to most Trinidad and Tobago football fans, W Connection goalkeeper Marvin Phillip is quietly building a remarkable resume in his national colours. On Thursday night, Phillip enjoyed his fifth clean sheet from as many outings in a fixture so comfortably won that his central defender, Makan Hislop, spent the closing minutes lurking outside the Netherlands Antilles penalty area taking pot shots.

The final score read 2-0 to the "Soca Warriors" at the Marvin Lee Stadium, Macoya. But the benefit of Trinidad and Tobago's preparation games will only be discovered when the Warriors travel to Cuba on August 20 for their opening CONCACAF semi-final round 2010 World Cup qualifying match.

Netherlands Antilles, like Guyana, Barbados and Grenada, have already been eliminated from the qualifiers and no one at Macoya on Thursday night would wonder why. Mobile but Naïve up front and shambolic at the back, the Dutch-speaking islanders are the lastest in a string of inferior teams to test coach Francisco Maturana's men.

FIFA vice-president and Trinidad and Tobago Football Federation (T&TFF) special adviser Jack Warner justifiably moaned that the Ministry of Sport and Youth Affairs should adjust their stadium rental fees according to the opposition. Yet, surely the same criteria should apply to gate prices as fans were asked to pay $100 to see an opponent who would struggle to match any of our ten Pro League teams.

Even worse, for long stretches of the match, the Warriors seemed to be trying to match their opponents' unimpressive display. It was not until the second half that substiute Andre Toussaint opened the score summary with a clever finish, while the insurance item did not arrive until stoppage time courtesy an Anthony Wolfe header.

For the opening 45 minutes, in particular, the Warriors' ball movement was ponderous. It meant more T&T players were challenged on the ball in their own half than would normally be healthy. Teenaged midfielder Khaleem Hyland, who is negotiating a move to England Premiership club Portsmouth, was particularly culpable in that regard.

Hyland has 12 national caps now and, apart from one outing against England and two to Jamaica, he might be misled into thinking international football is a leisurely stroll. There were positives too, of course. Maturana's full backs seemed more willing to join the attack, which provoked more crosses.

The central midfield trio, perhaps unaccustomed to such service, rarely charged the opposing penalty box to cash in. It was a positive sign regardless. W Connection holding midfielder Clyde Leon gave a fair impersonation of Argentina and Liverpool bolt Javier Mascherano.

He was always ready to take the ball off his defenders or support his more advanced midfield partners while he never delayed in switching the point of attack. Leon rarely leaves his feet to tackle either, although, considering the calibre of our last guests, he surely committed too many fouls. So he can still improve his timing.

2006 World Cup standout Cyd Gray gave a decent account too. He only played ten minutes of reserve football this season before his start on Thursday, with the armband to boot. But then Maturana's selection policy has become so farcical that it no longer lends itself to intelligent debate. Neal & Massy Caledonia AIA midfielder Densill Theobald, for instance, was told-according to T&TFF Media-that he was left off the squad for the past four months for declining the captain's armband in Maturana's first game in charge against Guadeloupe.

Better to leave that one alone too. A poor, unsuccessful penalty apart, Theobald's passing range was a tasty addition to Maturana's midfield. Although he will rarely have as much space to deliver those Hollywood passes in the future. And that is the whole point. It is nigh impossible to gauge the readiness of the Warriors against such paltry opposition. Phillip is a perfect case in point.

He has been virtually flawless so far under the present administration and has not conceded a single goal against El Salvador, Barbados, Grenada, Guyana and the Netherlands Antilles. Maturana must be pleased. When testing opposition beckons, though, the Colombian promptly summons either of the foreign-based duo of Clayton Ince or Jan-Michael Williams. Perhaps it is an indication of the value of these warm-up games. Go figure.