|Trinidad & Tobago||St. Lucia|
CONCACAF Gold Cup Qualifier
|2002-11-17||Marvin Lee Stadium||Tunapuna, Trinidad and Tobago||1000|
St. Lucia humble Warriors
|The Trinidad and Tobago national football team will advance to the final phase of qualifying for the CONCACAF Gold Cup tournamentbut only just.|
On a dark, rainy Sunday afternoon, the Soca Warriors lost 1-0 to St Lucia in front of nearly 2,000 spectators at the Centre of Excellence, Macoya yet ended atop the three nation group at the expense of St Kitts.
It was some consolation gladly accepted by new technical director Hannibal Najjar who suffered his first loss in just his second international outing.
Najjar paid credit to the St Lucians after the match.
They are a mature team, well seasoned and knew the Trinidad team very well, said Najjar. After the goal, we picked it up and were able to turn up the pressure and create quite a few chances...
But it is the way the dice rolled and we have to live with it.
In the closing moments, the animated coach was on his feet urging the Warriors forward as the St Lucians resisted a succession of attacks.
Still, the scenario in the closing minutes might have flattered the hosts.
Powerful central defender Keyeno Thomas almost fashioned an equaliser with a firm header in stoppage time while Kerry Noray had a decent penalty appeal ignored by Barbadian referee Mark Forde in the 80th minute.
Yet, the Warriors had done little for most of the 90 minute game to redress the scoreline and could hardly begrudge their Caribbean opponents the opportunity to qualify alongside them.
It could have been worse had the St Luciansand substitute Titus Elva in particularnot shown as much interest in protecting the ball at the corner flags or wasting time in other ways.
Late in the match, St Lucian coach Kingsley Armstrong further conceded the initiative by replacing Elva with the more defensive Dabreo Henry as the visitors invited the Warriors to attack them.
In many way then, the team from the Windward Islands ended exactly as they had begun.
St Lucia, who lost 2-1 in their opener to St Kitts on Wednesday, entered yesterdays contest knowing that a victory would have been enough to advance along with their hosts.
They were in no rush to get the three points though.
Employing a conservative 3-5-2 system bent more on containment than conquest, the visitors should have been satisfied with the goalless result at the interval with the Warriors again depending heavily on long diagonal crossballs.
Gary Glasgow, who scored with a header in T&Ts 2-0 win over St Kitts on Friday, was almost a beneficiary in the 38th minute with a precise header from a Rick Titus cross that St Lucian custodian Kester Erysthee pushed overbar.
Yet, a rushed shot from Cornell Glen apart, the Warriors struggled to get behind their physically imposing opponents.
Predictably, St Lucias tactics changed drastically at the interval with the introduction of Vibe CT 105 W Connection players Jonathan McVane and Elvatwo of eight T&T Pro League players on the opposing team.
McVane was immediately in the thick of things.
Within seconds of his entrance, the dreadlocked midfielder was nursing more than a bruised ego after being flattened by Warriors stopper Brent Sancho who earned himself a yellow card in the process.
But McVane did not have long to wait for his revenge.
Elva was the instigator with a clever flick behind Sanchos back in the 54th minute that McVane gathered before skilfully rounding Jack to poke home.
Only a deflection from Sancho prevented an encore two minutes later, as Elva tried to play Jean through, while the same striker blasted over at the near post in the 59th minute.
The threatening rain clouds had burst open by that time and red shirts seemed to be scrambling for cover in the stands and on the field.
A double substitution from Najjar appeared to stem the flow with the muscular pair of Anton Pierre and Trent Noel warming to the wet conditions although the visitors were showing little interest in a second goal.
Such reluctance could have cost St Lucia 10 minutes from time when a streaking Noray went over the outstretched leg of Lastic without the desired intervention of the match official.
Thomas went even closer with a header that was superbly tipped over by Erysthee but the die had been cast and Najjar was forced to console himself with their final group placing.
You qualify and youre happy, said Najjar. But you qualify and top the group and you are that much more happy. My biggest hurt is that we conceded a goal.
The recently appointed technical director explained after that he had set his target on creating a defensively solid shut out team.
It is one of many objectives for Najjar before the more testing second round of qualifying matches.
A success-starved nation will be watching eagerly.
|61' Anton Pierre|
|25' Uz Taylor|
|Brent Sancho 46 '|
|Travis Mulraine (capt.) 9 '|
|61' Trent Noel|
|25'||Uz Taylor for Ian Gray|
|61'||Anton Pierre for Nigel Daniel|
|61'||Trent Noel for Cornell Glen|