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‘Almost perfect’ Warriors edge Antigua and target Caribbean title

The first noticeable slip from a Trinidad and Tobago footballer at the Ato Boldon Stadium last night came about half hour after the final whistle as the media playfully grilled midfielder Hughtun Hector about life in Vietnam where he represents champion club, Hanoi T&T.

“I try to learn a few words but the language is difficult,” said Hector. “I learned to say a few things like: ‘thanks’ and ‘I love you’.”

The diminutive playmaker turned red as reporters roared in laughter. Hector had probably said a little bit more about life in Vietnam than he would have liked.

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago midfielder Hughtun Hector (right) advances while Antigua and Barbuda defender Quinton Griffith (centre) and Kevin Molino watch on. (Courtesy Allan V Crane/Wired868)
Photo: Trinidad and Tobago midfielder Hughtun Hector (right) advances while Antigua and Barbuda defender Quinton Griffith (centre) and Kevin Molino watch on.
(Courtesy Allan V Crane/Wired868)

In the prior 90 minutes, though, the “Soca Warriors” gave nothing away as the Trinidad and Tobago senior team edged Antigua and Barbuda 1-0 for its third successive win of the 2014 Caribbean Cup qualifying tournament.

Both teams advance to the regional finals. Trinidad and Tobago will play in Group A alongside defending champion, Cuba, French Guiana and Curacao while Antigua and Barbuda is in Group B with host Jamaica, Martinique and Haiti.

Trinidad and Tobago coach Stephen Hart suggested that regional football fans should get used to seeing a lot of Antigua and Barbuda.

“I was really impressed with Antigua,” said Hart. “I will make a prediction; I think you will see them in the (2015) Gold Cup.”

Antigua and Barbuda has never qualified for CONCACAF’s showcase tournament before and the tiny nation can hardly afford to be cocky in a group that includes two former Caribbean champions, Jamaica and Martinique, and a Haitian team on an upward trajectory.

But the “Benna Boys”, led by Polish technical director Piotr Nowak and coach Rolston Williams, were not short of tactical discipline and desire in Couva and, even without injured midfield ace Jorrin Jones, were able to conjure up a few half chances last night.

There was no doubting Trinidad and Tobago’s superiority though and, for once, Hart was satisfied.

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago scorer Kevin Molino (far left) leads teammates Hughtun Hector (second from left) and captain Kenwyne Jones (second from right) in a goal dance during 2014 Caribbean Cup qualifying action. (Courtesy Allan V Crane/Wired868)
Photo: Trinidad and Tobago scorer Kevin Molino (far left) leads teammates Hughtun Hector (second from left) and captain Kenwyne Jones (second from right) in a goal dance during 2014 Caribbean Cup qualifying action.
(Courtesy Allan V Crane/Wired868)

“I am very, very proud of the team tonight,” said Hart. “(Antigua and Barbuda) played exactly as we thought and I thought we executed well. I was most impressed with the discipline we kept in the game…

“We knew they would sit deep, try to pull us forward and see what happened after that. I told the players: don’t throw yourselves into it; be patient and move the ball around and you will get chances.”

Team captain Kenwyne Jones was all smiles as he reminisced about a fixture in which the Warriors moved as if in one body.

“We played an almost perfect game,” said Jones.

Coaches and spectators tend to have different opinions about a perfect match.

There is nothing like a thrilling end-to-end affair or goal spree to get the pulses racing. But Trinidad and Tobago’s final qualifying fixture was closer to chess than checkers; more David Rudder than Iwer George.

Antigua and Barbuda got 10 players behind the ball, mostly in a compact square on top of their own penalty areas, and dared the Warriors to break them down.  Twenty-three-year-old midfield enforcer Joshua Parker, who plays professionally for Domžale FC in Slovenia and is one of eight Antiguans who earn a living outside of the Caribbean, was like a war general on horseback as he galloped from side to side to support teammates and flatten opponents.

Photo: Antigua and Barbuda midfielder Joshua Parker (left) barges into Trinidad and Tobago attacker Kevin Molino during 2014 Caribbean Cup qualifying action. (Courtesy Allan V Crane/Wired868)
Photo: Antigua and Barbuda midfielder Joshua Parker (left) barges into Trinidad and Tobago attacker Kevin Molino during 2014 Caribbean Cup qualifying action.
(Courtesy Allan V Crane/Wired868)

The Benna Boys followed his lead with a style that mixed mobility and discipline with ruthlessness.

“(Our overseas players) bring the work ethic and belief into the team,” said Williams, the Antiguan coach, “which is good for us because the younger players see how they carry about themselves and their discipline.”

But, one minute before the interval, Antigua and Barbuda failed to close an opening in time.

Jones picked out Kevin Molino with a clever flick and the “number 10” did the rest with an assured finish at the near post. It was Molino’s fourth goal in his two appearances of this competition and his sixth in nine outings under Hart.

Hart joked that former FIFA Player of the Year, Kaka, might have to make space for Molino when they combine for Orlando City in the MLS next season.

“He has to pick his moments better (to dash into spaces) so he doesn’t run out of steam against better teams,” said Hart. “He has good technique and his finishing is improving. He is on his way to being a top number 10.”

Trinidad and Tobago goalkeeper Jan-Michael Williams was forced to make two sharp saves over the 90 minutes—one at the feet of opposing striker Peter Byers and the other to block an angled effort from Calaum Jahraldo-Martin—but the result never looked in doubt.

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago midfielder Kevin Molino (second from left) runs at Antigua and Barbuda players (from left) Keiran Murtagh, Akeem Thomas and Quinton Griffith during 2014 Caribbean Cup qualifying action. (Courtesy Allan V Crane/Wired868)
Photo: Trinidad and Tobago midfielder Kevin Molino (second from left) runs at Antigua and Barbuda players (from left) Keiran Murtagh, Akeem Thomas and Quinton Griffith during 2014 Caribbean Cup qualifying action.
(Courtesy Allan V Crane/Wired868)

At the final whistle, the Warriors were already thinking of the chance to lift their first Caribbean Cup title in 13 years. Jones confirmed that the players also discussed the bonus of a place at the 2016 Copa America tournament, which will go to for regional champion.

“I think there is a terrific group of players at the moment and some (more) that can come in at anytime,” said Jones. “… For us, it is about time Trinidad and Tobago wins the Caribbean Cup again.”

The Warriors would feel encouraged by their sure-footed performance last night. Not counting Hector’s slip-up, of course.

(Teams)

Trinidad and Tobago (4-2-3-1): 21.Jan-Michael Williams (GK) (vice-captain); 6.Daneil Cyrus, 4.Sheldon Bateau, 19.Carlyle Mitchell, 3.Joevin Jones; 14.Andre Boucaud (17.Leston Paul 88), 8.Khaleem Hyland; 23.Lester Peltier (11.Ataulla Guerra 81), 10.Kevin Molino, 7.Hughtun Hector; 9.Kenwyne Jones (captain) (13.Cordell Cato 67).

Unused substitutes: 1.Marvin Phillip (GK), 5.Kevan George, 18.Yohance Marshall, 20.Trevin Caesar.

Coach: Stephen Hart

 

Antigua and Barbuda (4-2-3-1): 1.Brenton Muhammad (GK); 11.Quinton Griffith, 20.Akeem Thomas, 5.Connor Peters, 6.Zaine Francis-Angol (4.Karanja Mack 87), 2.Josha Parker, 8.Keiran Murtagh, 13.Tamorley Thomas, 12.Nathaniel Jarvis (22.Randolph Burton 72), 10.Calaum Martin (15.Mervyn Hazelwood 89); 16.Peter Byers,

Unused substitutes: 18.Molvin James (GK), 3.Okeem Challenger, 7.Tevaughn Harriette, 9.Gayson Gregory.

Technical director: Piotr Nowak

 

Referee: Trevor Taylor (Barbados)

 

Caribbean Cup results

(Sun Oct 12)

Trinidad and Tobago 1 (Kevin Molino 44), Antigua and Barbuda 0 at Couva

Dominican Republic 3 (Edipo Rodriguez, Johnathan Fana pen, Inoel Navarro), St Lucia 2 (Zaeehaeus Polius [2]) at Couva

(Fri Oct 10)

Antigua and Barbuda 0, Dominican Republic 0 at Couva

Trinidad and Tobago 2 (Ataulla Guerra 6, Kenwyne Jones 67), St Lucia 0 at Couva

(Wed Oct 8)

Antigua and Barbuda 2 (Keiran Murtagh, Joshua Parker), St Lucia 1 (Kurt Fredericks) at Couva;

Trinidad and Tobago 6 (Kevin Molino 3, 4, 25, Kenwyne Jones 40, 55, Trevin Caesar 76), Dominican Republic 1 (Johnathan Fana 86) at Couva;

About Lasana Liburd

Lasana Liburd
Lasana Liburd is the CEO and Editor at Wired868.com and a journalist with over 20 years experience at several Trinidad and Tobago and international publications including Play the Game, World Soccer, UK Guardian and the Trinidad Express.

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18 comments

  1. I fully agree with that Debbie Espinal. He knows what he is doing and he is able to reach the players. With the support of the TTFA/public, there is real potential here.

  2. Not getting into a tit for tat either all i’m saying to you is give him time and you’ll see the mettle of the Man. Both Cummings and St Clair were good and had long stints with their respective teams. Not familiar with Kenny Joseph i must admit but Hart has done a lot in a short space of time with little resources and he’s giving the football loving fans hope and getting them to support once again. What we’re seeing is there might be a light at the end of this tunnel.

  3. Why should I have to eat my words if Hart does well? When did I say I don’t want him to do well?
    You might be selling the Strike Squad short. But I don’t want to get into a tit for tat.
    I support the national team. But Hart has not achieved as much as Gally or St Clair or Kenny Joseph yet. I’m sure he would agree if he were on this thread.

  4. With what Hart has to work with as compared to Gally and St Clair i think you’re selling Hart short Lasana. Uncle Jack was around in those days to secure good opposition for the teams under their tenure. You’ll eat those words one day if Hart sticks around. You of all people should understand the constraints under which Hart has to operate. Give the Man his due.

  5. Well, we haven’t quite hit the heights of the teams under Gally Cummings and Bertille St Clair or even Kenny Joseph yet. But Hart has made him a promising start and I definitely hope the TTFA finds the resources to support him.

  6. Now it would be great if the TTFF get their act together and sort out their finances and get some good Teams for practice matches so that Coach Hart could continue his outstanding work with the Soca Warriors. Best Coach we’ve had since or before Beenhakker IMHO.

  7. GREAT JOB GUYS!!! I must say I was really impressed with the performance of the guys, team looked really balanced. I think this squad that started the first 2 games has a really good cohesion and if they continue to play together that will be great. Even the guys that came in at times like Cato and Caesar should be kept around the squad. Cato was rally unlucky not to score in this tournament.
    I wonder what Mr L’Hoquetta has to say about Kenwyne’s performance now. Great work ethic in this game. Good job Mr Hart and the Warriors.

    On to the next one!

  8. Keep up the good work guys …

  9. Impressive Soca Warriors esp Molino

  10. they invited jamaica for next copa america 2015, lucky them

  11. Ye I was actually thinking all along that the next Copa America (2015) was the centenary tournament which the CONCACAF teams was invited to. That article made me realize the actual dynamics….but its all good

  12. It will still be good for Trinidad. Even if there are weakened squads.

  13. That’s a pity if the teams are not full strength. But I doubt anyone will play a reserve squad. South American teams care too much about this tournament.
    Even Vickery says the last tournament with weakened teams was a decade ago.
    Of course, a second string Argentina team will still have players like Pastore, Banega and Gago. I think they can give us a game. 😉

  14. I know the aim for the warriors is the 2016 Copa America, which is obviously big. But this article by Tim Vickery was brought to my attention earlier today, criticizing the tournament from a CONMEBOL perspective:

    http://www.espnfc.com/blog/espn-fc-united-blog/68/post/1841292/copa-america-centenario-highlights-issues

    “But another effect of the extension of the World Cup qualifiers was that the Copa America was downgraded. The versions of 1997, 2001 and 2004 were especially weak, full of under-strength sides. The Copa has since found its place; it is now held every four years, and it starts off a new cycle. The next one will take place in Chile next year, where teams will be playing their first competitive matches since the World Cup — indeed, for those teams that did not make it to Brazil, they will be playing their first competitive matches since last October. All of the sides will go to Chile hoping to emerge from the tournament whipped into shape for the next set of World Cup qualifiers, which kick off shortly afterward.

    The problem for the 2016 Centenary Cup is that it comes in the middle of this qualifying process. The top players will have played the 2014 World Cup and the 2015 Copa America. They will be in need of a rest, saving themselves not only for their club sides, but also for the 2018 World Cup qualifiers.

    The strong suspicion, then, is that the 2016 Centenary Cup will be full of experimental sides, which is perhaps what the competition deserves. But marking 100 years since one of the most important moments in the game’s history certainly merits something better.”

  15. Raquel, ‘almost perfect’ is a quote from the team captain.

  16. John Cooper, they watched the same game as us?! Almost perfect??!!????