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Molino makes Hasely Crawford Stadium dance, T&T edge Panama 1-0 to restore WCQ dreams

A pinpoint low strike from Trinidad and Tobago attacking midfielder Kevin Molino breathed fresh life into the Soca Warriors’ Russia 2018 World Cup campaign tonight as they edged Panama 1-0 at the Hasely Crawford Stadium in Port of Spain.

It also marked a triumphant debut for former World Cup 2006 defender Dennis Lawrence who made his first outing as a head coach tonight.

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago National Senior Team coach Dennis Lawrence (centre) makes a point to his players during World Cup qualifying action against Panama at the Hasely Crawford Stadium on 24 March 2017. (Courtesy Chevaughn Christopher/Wired868)
Photo: Trinidad and Tobago National Senior Team coach Dennis Lawrence (centre) makes a point to his players during World Cup qualifying action against Panama at the Hasely Crawford Stadium on 24 March 2017.
(Courtesy Chevaughn Christopher/Wired868)

There was the odd flutter at the back but, largely, it was a serene outing for Trinidad and Tobago who defended resolutely and never looked in danger of a third successive CONCACAF Hex defeat.

Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA) president David John-Williams targeted four points from his team’s two home matches against Panama tonight and Mexico on Tuesday—but few thought it was a realistic ask. That might be about to change though.

There were roughly 6,000 spectators at the Hasely Crawford Stadium at kick-off and, by halftime, there were barely 10,000 patrons in a venue built for 23,000. It was a huge drop off in attendance that should prompt some soul-searching within the local football body.

But, more importantly, the Warriors showed up.

On paper, Lawrence had a crisis at centre-back with Radanfah Abu Bakr and Carlyle Mitchell injured and Sheldon Bateau suspended. In their places, he started two Pro League players, Daneil Cyrus and Curtis Gonzales. The latter defender was making his first appearance of the World Cup campaign while the former’s calamitous form was partly responsible for Trinidad and Tobago’s woeful start in the Hex.

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago midfielder Khaleem Hyland (centre) tries to escape from Panama midfielder Amilcar Henriquez (right) during 2018 World Cup qualifying action at the Hasely Crawford Stadium on 24 March 2017. (Courtesy Chevaughn Christopher/Wired868)
Photo: Trinidad and Tobago midfielder Khaleem Hyland (centre) tries to escape from Panama midfielder Amilcar Henriquez (right) during 2018 World Cup qualifying action at the Hasely Crawford Stadium on 24 March 2017.
(Courtesy Chevaughn Christopher/Wired868)

It would be a stretch to say the pair were flawless tonight. But it was close enough. In truth, their jobs were made easier by a solid defensive shape that offered little space to their Central American opponents down the middle while full-backs Carlos Edwards and Mekeil Williams held their own on either flank.

In their last seven outings, Panama managed just five goals—and that included home matches against Belize, Nicaragua and El Salvador—and their lack of offensive presence haunted them again in Port-of-Spain.

Joevin Jones gave early warning that the hosts meant business with a dipping shot from 25 yards in the 13th minute, which needed to be helped over by opposing goalkeeper Jaime Penedo. Yet, it still seemed to be a pleasant surprise when Molino opened the scoring with a sweet, precise low effort from just outside the penalty area in the 37th minute.

It was Molino’s first appearance of the Hex after a two-match internal suspension for twice breaking the team’s curfew to party. Tonight, the dancehall king set the Hasely Crawford Stadium dancing.

Incidentally, Panama central defender Roman Torres was off the field attending to his footwear at the time. It was a costly wardrobe malfunction.

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago midfielder Kevin Molino weighs up his options during 2018 World Cup qualifying action against Panama at the Hasely Crawford Stadium on 24 March 2017. (Courtesy Chevaughn Christopher/Wired868)
Photo: Trinidad and Tobago midfielder Kevin Molino weighs up his options during 2018 World Cup qualifying action against Panama at the Hasely Crawford Stadium on 24 March 2017.
(Courtesy Chevaughn Christopher/Wired868)

Alongside Molino, Kenwyne Jones rolled back the years with an energetic, bustling performance that stretched the opposing backline and created space for his namesake, Joevin, and the scorer to operate.

In the first half alone, Kenwyne probably made more sprints that he had in the last two games combined. It was always likely that the giant forward had more to contribute to his country’s cause once he returned to full fitness.

It was not a particular fluent performance yet from the Warriors—and Lawrence met most of his players for the first time just this week. But the hosts looked more dangerous for much of the game.

Molino ran on to a Kenwyne flick on in the 61st minute and Torres looked a fraction late with his shoulder challenge, as defender and attacker fell to the ground in a heap.

Penalties have been awarded for less. But Honduran referee Orlando Matamoros waved play on.

Then in the 67th minute came what might have been the play of the match.

Kenwyne chased a ball over the top and surprised opposing defender Felipe Baloy with his turn of pace. The sphere was about to roll across the goal line when the Atlanta United forward caught up to it and Baloy lunged in to block the expected cross.

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago forward Kenwyne Jones (left) outruns Panama central defender Roman Torres during 2018 World Cup qualifying action at the Hasely Crawford Stadium on 24 March 2017. (Courtesy Chevaughn Christopher/Wired868)
Photo: Trinidad and Tobago forward Kenwyne Jones (left) outruns Panama central defender Roman Torres during 2018 World Cup qualifying action at the Hasely Crawford Stadium on 24 March 2017.
(Courtesy Chevaughn Christopher/Wired868)

Instead, Kenwyne chopped the ball inside of his opponent and Baloy went flying so far off the field that he might have needed a taxi to get back to the ground.

But then, with three Trinidad and Tobago attackers outnumbering the two Panamanian defenders in the area, Kenwyne tried to surprise the goalkeeper at his near post and hooked the ball disappointingly wide with his left foot.

Joevin and substitute Levi Garcia, who were waiting for the cross, were not impressed. For Kenwyne’s critics, it was the fuel they had been looking for.

However, the more knowledgeable football fans surely could not help but notice that Trinidad and Tobago are a far more dangerous team when the big number nine is playing well, even when he is not scoring.

The lineman’s flag denied Panama substitute Luis Tejada, who drove the ball between the legs of Trinidad and Tobago goalkeeper Jan-Michael Williams in the 75th minute. And opposing midfielder Anibal Godoy had two decent looks in the last 15 minutes but failed to take either while Cyrus put hearts in mouth with a slash in his own box in the dying seconds of the game.

The last 10 minutes apart, though, Trinidad and Tobago deserved the win.

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago football fans enjoy the show during 2018 World Cup qualifying action at the Hasely Crawford Stadium on 24 March 2017. (Courtesy Chevaughn Christopher/Wired868)
Photo: Trinidad and Tobago football fans enjoy the show during 2018 World Cup qualifying action at the Hasely Crawford Stadium on 24 March 2017.
(Courtesy Chevaughn Christopher/Wired868)

The Warriors remain second from bottom with three points but trail fourth-placed United States by just goal difference. And fourth is good enough for the FIFA Play-offs.

Mexico lead the group with seven points while Costa Rica are second with six. But only one point separates third-placed Panama (four points) and table-proppers Honduras (three points).

A draw against Mexico on Tuesday can keep the Warriors close to the pack, even as United States surge up the standings. A win over Mexico could move Trinidad and Tobago to fourth.

Only three of the 14 players used by Lawrence tonight are playing regular competitive football at present while eight of them are in either post-season or pre-season. It will be hard for them to maintain tonight’s energy levels in four days’ time.

Bateau is available again and Lawrence might consider making another change or two to freshen his team up. The six-foot-seven coach did little wrong tonight and he will no doubt relish the challenge.

(Teams)

Trinidad and Tobago (4-2-3-1): 21.Jan-Michael Williams (GK); 11.Carlos Edwards, 25.Curtis Gonzales, 5.Daneil Cyrus, 17.Mekeil Williams; 19.Kevan George, 8.Khaleem Hyland; 7.Cordell Cato (16.Levi Garcia 64), 10.Kevin Molino (13.Hughtun Hector 79), 3.Joevin Jones; 9.Kenwyne Jones (captain) (20.Jamille Boatswain 83).

Unused substitutes: 1.Marvin Phillip (GK), 22.Glenroy Samuel (GK), 2.Aubrey David, 12.Hashim Arcia, 14.Andre Boucaud, 18.Tristan Hodge, 23.Leston Paul, 26.Willis Plaza, 27.Nathan Lewis.

Coach: Dennis Lawrence

Panama (4-1-4-1): 1.Jaime Penedo (GK); 13.Adolfo Machado (2.Michael Amir 74), 23.Felipe Baloy (captain), 5.Roman Torres, 17.Luis Ovalle; 21.Amilcar Henriquez; 8.Edgar Barcenas (9.Gabriel Torres 63), 11.Armando Cooper, 20.Anibal Godoy, 19.Alberto Quintero (18.Luis Tejada 57); 22.Abdiel Arroyo.

Unused substitutes: 12.Jose Calderon (GK), 3.Jan Carlos, 4.Roderick Miller, 7.Oscar Villarreal, 10.Alejandro Taylor, 14.Miguel Camargo, 16.Josiel Nunez, 15.Eric Davis.

Coach: Hernan Gomez

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago National Senior Team head coach Dennis Lawrence (right) thanks midfielder Cordell Cato for his effort during 2018 World Cup qualifying action against Panama at the Hasely Crawford Stadium on 24 March 2017. (Courtesy Chevaughn Christopher/Wired868)
Photo: Trinidad and Tobago National Senior Team head coach Dennis Lawrence (right) thanks midfielder Cordell Cato for his effort during 2018 World Cup qualifying action against Panama at the Hasely Crawford Stadium on 24 March 2017.
(Courtesy Chevaughn Christopher/Wired868)

World Cup qualifiers

(Friday 24 March 2017)

Trinidad and Tobago 1 (Kevin Molino 37), Panama 0 at the Hasely Crawford Stadium, Port of Spain.

Mexico (Javier Hernandez 5, Nester Araujo 45), Costa Rica 0 at the Estadio Azteca, Mexico City;

United States 6 (Sebastian LLetget 5, Michael Bradley 27, Clint Dempsey 32, 49, 54, Christian Pulisic 46), Honduras 0 at the Avaya Stadium, California.

 

CONCACAF Hex Standings

(Tabulated as Played-Won-Drawn-Lost-Goals For-Goals Against-Points)

Mexico              3-2-1-0-4-1-7

Costa Rica       3-2-0-1-6-2-6

Panama            3-1-1-1-1-1-4

United States 3-1-0-2-7-6-3

T&T                    3-1-0-2-2-5-3

Honduras       3-1-0-2-3-8-3

About Lasana Liburd

Lasana Liburd
Lasana Liburd is the CEO and Editor at Wired868.com and a journalist with over 15 years experience at several local and international publications including Play the Game, World Soccer, UK Guardian and the Trinidad Express.

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298 comments

  1. Our players have to make a concerted effort to raise their fitness level to at least level 7 or 8. They started to slow down after 30mins. We can’t afford that against the US & Mexico. However, I saw some of the natural flear and attacking touches I know we are capable of playing.

  2. There is still room for improvement.

  3. From the moment he (Coach Lawrence) was hired, I was happy!!!!!!!From the first day I watched the team and their approach to training session, I was elated and happy to “d” bone….with this first “important” victory, I am smiling from ear to ear with my chest pushed up, head high and proud of the entire team’s effort…..Players are still getting their hands around Coach Lawrence’s system so we must continue to be patient. I was concerned about fitness in the second half of play and we MUST continue to bring up our fitness level. We “TnT Soca Warriors Fans”, need to step our game up”…While the team is working on their fitness, we need to lift their spirts when the energy level is low.

    For the upcoming Mexico game, the stadium “MUST” be packed and loud to the point where Mexico players and coaches can’t even hear themselves “THINK”… We all know the importance of this game, now it is time to “SHOW UP” and support or Shut Up….

    WE have the coach, WE have the talent and now WE need the ENTIRE country in the stands supporting the Soca Warriors!!!! TTFA when the Mexico game is said and done……PLEASE pay the players and let there be NO discussions about payment for players or coaching staff…

    Soca Warrior till I die!!!!!

    • Earl Best

      Clint, very valid. However, you omitted to mention that the TTFA too should do, should have done, its part by dropping, not raising, the price of the tickets. Better to take a loss at the gates, I would think, in an effort to enhance your chances of an all-important win on the field. That assuimes of course, that the football results matter more than the football receipts.

      But myopia and selfishness, not foresight and patriotism, are football’s administrators’ strong suit. And because “genius” and “jenny ass” aren’t too far distant from each other, we can’t be sure just which is the one making marketing decisions in the TTFA offices.

  4. hahahahaha Them really good yes.

  5. Who was #17? Williams? He was a mess in the second half

  6. Kenwyne always had it in him. I wonder why it took him so long to perform this excellent..I trust he continue.

  7. Tnt finishing 6th in the hex

  8. I am going out on a limb Honduras sold that game😤6-0 in a hex from a weak US team!

  9. For mex. Game t& t level must be better

  10. To be honest I thought they (our team) would have lost all things considered. Panama supposed to be a good team right?
    Happy for our boys on the win though. Hope they can keep it up. We’ll see in the next game.

  11. Love the points. Kinda scrappy but points is what counts

  12. Sorry if it was mentioned before but what happened to Bateau?

  13. You wicked kev. The pro league is no where near that in attendance

  14. Lasana Liburd looks like Molino plays for another team. What they do? Bring them home to play for their national team and send them back?

  15. mate, they kill kenwayne in this commentry even tho we won lol Tom Barker

  16. What is an internal suspension?