… Pellerud bemoans lack of depth, fitness and experience
Ninety minutes can seem like an eternity in sport.
For the first hour, the Trinidad and Tobago under-17 women’s football team competed well with its United States counterpart at the Concacaf Championship in Guatemala City although the latter outfit got the lone goal in that period. Emily Bruder had put the US ahead in the 20th minute.
There was a different story by the final whistle. The United States had a 5-0 scoreline in its favour by then and Trinidad and Tobago was eliminated with a game to spare.
Mexico whipped Bahamas 6-0 in the second fixture of the Guatemala City and is guaranteed to advance to the semi-final stage alongside the US.
Trinidad and Tobago faces Bahamas on Monday in the final match of the tournament for both teams. The two Caribbean nations played each other in the qualifying series on 1 December 2011 and Trinidad and Tobago won 3-0.
In fact, the ladies from the twin island republic were virtually unplayable at regional level as coach Even Pellerud’s charges scored an eye-raising 58 goals in seven matches with none conceded.
At Concacaf level, though, captain Anique Walker and her teammates were always more likely to be the hunted rather than the hunters. And, after an opening 2-0 loss to Mexico on Thursday night, there was reason for concern as T&T braced itself for the freescoring Americans, who started their campaign with a 10-0 rout of the Bahamas.
Not surprisingly, the United States was first on the score summary as Bruder crashed a left footer in off the underside of the bar from 20 yards. But the floodgates did not open. Not yet.
Instead, Trinidad and Tobago fought back.
Central defender Jonelle Warrick, a Bishop’s Anstey East student, is one of a handful of players who takes breaks from football duties in Guatemala to prepare for her CXC examinations. Academically, she might be at O’ level but she is nearer to a PhD when it comes to striking the football.
Warrick was nearly 30-yards from goal when she unleashed a right footer that surprised US goalkeeper Carolyn Campbell and clipped the bar on its way over.
Twice, T&T’s own custodian, Lebrisca Phillip, was forced into brilliant saves to keep the Americans at bay but it was not one-way traffic. And Campbell had to be alert again to fend away a Donika Murray strike in the 63rd minute.
Suddenly, an equaliser did not seem inconceivable. And that is when Pellerud’s ladies, arguably distracted, let the game slip.
There was a mitigating factor. T&T central defender Khadisha Debesette, who did her first exam in communication studies on Friday, failed to avoid a fierce shot from US striker Summer Green that struck her in the head in the 60th minute. Pellerud replaced her with full back Nikki Billioun and shuffled his defence.
Five minutes after that change and two minutes after Murray’s effort, the United States finally got some daylight space from the twin island republic courtesy of a defensive error.
Warrick misjudged a punt upfield from US custodian, Campbell, and allowed it to bounce over her head. Andi Sullivan, who was suddenly clear through on goal, did not let the opportunity waste.
“With Debesette out, we ran out of centre back options and were forced to move players around,” Pellerud told the TTFF Media. “Thus the second goal was a result of total lack of spacing judgment.”
The Americans smelt blood in the water and, two minutes later, made it 3-0 as Sarah Robinson ghosted past the opposing defence to convert.
Trinbagonians were praying for the final whistle now but it would not come.
Green, surely the star of a talented US team, got the fourth item and her sixth goal of the tournament in the 84th minute. Midfielder Joanna Boyles slipped to Green who created space with one touch before a cool left footed finish.
And, always prone to overdo, the US conjured up a fifth with seconds remaining in additional time. Boyles didn’t need any help this time as she thumped a fierce right footer past Phillip that smashed in off the underneath of the bar.
“Our team could not longer cope with two factors that traditionally kill any T&T team,” said the 58-year-old Pellerud, “… a desperate lack of match experience and (…) match fitness hurts us when the game goes into the deep end.
“The late goals created a final result that did not really reflect the match.”
Photo: T&T under-17 women
“The history books will never tell us a story about a T&T Under 17 team that fought a strong and relatively even match for as long as 70 minutes against a power house and world leading team this afternoon,” said Pellerud, who coached his homeland, Norway, to second place in the inaugural 1991 Women’s World Cup and led Canada to fourth in 2003. “Most of (the T&T players) played up their individual potential against a superior opponent, and there isn’t more can a coach can ask for.”
The T&T under-17 women will take the field on Monday knowing that their dreams of a World Cup berth are over. But Bermuda presents another opportunity for the local team to show its mastery over the Caribbean.
“The staff is immediately starting the job to get the girls mentally and physically ready for the Bahamas match on Monday,” said the T&T coach, “(and) trying to make sure that a positive last match becomes the outcome.”
Walker and her ladies will have to make do with that.
TT: 1.Lebrisca Phillip; 5.Adeka Spence, 17.Jonelle Warrick, 6.Khadisha Debesette (15.Nikkia Billioun 60), 14.Emma Abdul (13.Shanisa Camejo 63); 16.Donika Murray, 7.Diarra Simmons, 4.Liana Hinds (2.Dennecia Prince 77), 11.Khadidra Debesette, 10.Marlique Asson; 19.Anique Walker (Capt).