The Trinidad and Tobago National Senior Team players and staff were disappointed but not deflated this morning as they came to grips with a hard- fought 2-1 Russia 2018 World Cup qualifying loss away to Costa Rica in San José.
The Soca Warriors lost team captain Kenwyne Jones to an injury in the pre-match warm-up and then went behind to a set piece goal by Francisco Calvo after just 45 seconds. However, the two-island republic clawed themselves back on level terms through a Kevin Molino strike and provoked some world-class saves from Costa Rica and Real Madrid custodian Keylor Navas before eventually conceding to a classy strike from former England Premier League playmaker Bryan Ruiz.
Head coach Dennis Lawrence, who took over the post in February, saw the cup as half-full.
“Costa Rica has always been one of the Concacaf giants,” Lawrence told the TTFA Media. “I think we all understand they are a very good team and they have players of a top level. What I am most pleased about is that we were able to come out and match Costa Rica stride for stride.
“Unfortunately we did not get the result we wanted but I give yeoman credit to my team for the effort that they put in.”
The Warriors started the contest believing that anything but a draw would make qualification virtually impossible. However, a draw between Panama and Honduras in Panama City means Trinidad and Tobago can still keep their Russia 2018 World Cup dreams alive with wins over the two aforementioned teams in September.
Still, Trinidad and Tobago might have gotten something out of the game if, six minutes into the second half, referee Yardel Martinez had spotted a clear foul by Costa Rican defender Michael Umaña on Warriors striker Jamille Boatswain.
“We are going to fight until the end, until it becomes mathematically impossible for us to qualify,” said Lawrence. “I thought we had more of the game in the second half than Costa Rica. I think the entire stadium knew it was a penalty. The only people who did not recognise it was the people who were most important—the officials.”
Molino’s firm left-footed effort in the 34th minute made him Trinidad and Tobago’s first scorer in Costa Rica since Jerren Nixon who scored in a 2-1 loss at Cartago on 21 December 1996. The last time the two-island republic scored in San José was in 1985 when Nevick Denoon’s item secured a 1-1 tie.
But Molino told the TTFA Media that he took little consolation in the personal milestone.
“I am disappointed,” said Molino. “There is no way to hide this because I felt we did well enough to get a result tonight, at least a point. I feel pleased to have scored here in Costa Rica but I am hurting with the result. I would have much preferred to leave here with something…
“[In the] first half we were in it, even after the early goal. And when I banged it in, I felt we had them on the back foot and the game was there for the taking. But we had a couple close misses and [that] very close penalty call.
“We know in these countries, we are not going to get those calls.”
It is the third successive outing that the Warriors have felt hard-done by by the match officials after a wrongfully disallowed Joevin Jones item in a 1-0 loss to Mexico on 28 March in Port-of-Spain and a debatable offside call against Nathan Lewis who thought he had equalised away to the United States on 8 June.
“Congratulations to Costa Rica [but], in terms of our boys, I think we gave a tremendous effort tonight and I don’t think the result reflected the actual [performance],” said Lawrence. “I’ve got to question the penalty because I think the only people on the football pitch that did not believe it was a penalty were the officials. From that point of view, I thought we should have come out with something from the game and I really feel sorry for the boys.”
The mood in the Trinidad and Tobago dressing-room after the loss was described as upbeat, though. And Molino, who has excelled in all four outings under Lawrence so far, suggested that, despite the loss, the Warriors are heading in the right direction.
“We put out a strong effort tonight but unfortunately we didn’t get the result,” said Molino. “It is unfortunate for us at this time… But I feel very strongly about how we are coming along as a team.
“We fought really well and matched this Costa Rican team and hopefully we can pull it even close together for the next set of games in September and get the results we need.”