Trinidad and Tobago midfielder Kevin Molino hopped off a plane in Saudi Arabia this morning, following an 18-hour flight from Miami, and played his part in a stunning “Soca Warriors” revival on the same day.
Molino, who plays for Orlando City in the United States A’ League, came off the bench to grab a stoppage time equaliser as Trinidad and Tobago fought back from a three-goal deficit to hold the United Arab Emirates 3-3 in the 2013 OSN Cup at the King Fahd International Stadium in Riyadh.
There was a sting in the tail for the Warriors though as the UAE team recovered its poise to win the subsequent penalty shootout 7-6 and will play in the OSN Cup final on Monday September 9 against New Zealand.
New Zealand edged hosts Saudi Arabia 1-0 in the second match of a double header in Riyadh.
Trinidad and Tobago will play Saudi Arabia on Monday in the third place play off. But the Warriors were happy to take the positives from a battling performance in 42 degrees Celsius temperature, despite having just one training session in the Arab nation.
“We didn’t have a good first half by any means but we did a lot better in the second half,” Trinidad and Tobago captain Kenwyne Jones told the TTFA Media. “We showed great fight to comeback and I don’t think this has ever happened in the history of the senior team, at least not for the past two decades or so…
“Unfortunately we lost out on penalty kicks but I think this was a performance and a match that we could feel good about and it shows some kind of progress with the national team from the Gold Cup. That is the most important thing for us at this stage.”
National coach Stephen Hart was also happy with the character of his team after a disastrous start.
“I’m pleased with the fact that we scored goals and we showed a desire to come back from 3-0… and that in itself is something we can take from this game and build on,” said Hart.
Hart was denied the services of DIRECTV W Connection defender Daneil Cyrus after he skipped the trip while Molino missed his initial flight and only got to Riyadh at 7 am on the day of the game.
“My intention was not to play Kevin (Molino) because of his late travel,” said Hart. “But he was on the edge of his seat and I thought he looked like he had that kind of enthusiasm and passion to come off the bench.
“I gave him twenty minutes and he rewarded us with the tying goal.”
There were few promising signs in the opening 45 minutes, though, as the UAE stormed ahead through a Habib Fadan header in the eighth minute following a left side corner kick. And Ali Ahmed doubled the Arab nation’s lead with a long distance strike in the 40th minute.
“I thought we were very sloppy in the first half,” said Hart, “both when in possession and particularly defensively.”
Things did not initially appear to improve after the break as Ahmed Khalil got UAE’s third in the 52nd minute with a tidy finish from inside the Trinidad and Tobago penalty box after a clever, lofted pass from Omar Alamoudi.
Hart responded by replacing Ataullah Guerra with Vietnam-based attacker Willis Plaza in the advanced midfield role. Within seconds, the Warriors pulled a goal back as Plaza rose to head home a cross from Slovakia winger and his former San Juan Jabloteh teammate Lester Peltier.
Plaza and Peltier were both new additions to Hart’s squad and neither featured at the 2013 CONCACAF Gold Cup.
Three minutes from the end of regulation time, Plaza again made a nuisance of himself in the opposing area and was hacked down by the UAE custodian. Jones calmly converted the penalty kick.
“Willis Plaza came on and did very well for us,” said Hart. “He started to run behind (the opposing defence) and Peltier started to get behind also and we got ourselves back in the game.”
But Molino, who scored in Trinidad and Tobago’s crucial 2-0 Gold Cup win over Honduras in July, again proved to be hero as he charged the box to head in an accurate left side cross by Robert Primus and sent the game into penalty kicks.
Molino scored his penalty as did Radanfah Abu Bakr, Justin Hoyte, Jones, Peltier and Primus. But, despite two saves from Trinidad and Tobago and Central FC custodian Jan-Michael Williams, Andre Boucaud, Plaza and Kevan George all failed to convert as the UAE recovered to sneak a shootout victory.
The Warriors will hope for a better result on Monday when they face hosts Saudi Arabia.
Trinidad and Tobago (x UAE): Jan-Michael Williams; Justin Hoyte, Radanfah Abu Bakr, Robert Primus, Aubrey David (Sheldon Bateau 52); Andre Boucaud, Khaleem Hyland (Kevan George 81); Lester Peltier, Ataullah Guerra (Willis Plaza 55), Marcus Joseph (Kevin Molino 70); Kenwyne Jones (captain).
Unused substitutes: Marvin Phillip, Glenroy Samuel, Curtis Gonzales, Mekeil Williams, Densill Theobald.
Coach: Stephen Hart
2013 OCN Cup
UAE 3 (Habib Fadan 8, Ali Ahmed 40, Ahmed Khalil 52), T&T 3 (Willis Plaza 56, Kenwyne Jones 87 pen, Kevin Molino 90)
*–UAE won 7-6 on penalties
New Zealand 1, Saudi Arabia 0