Trinidad and Tobago failed to make home advantage count against Jamaica tonight as they lost 2-1 in the friendly international contest at the Hasely Crawford Stadium in Port of Spain.
The Soca Warriors never led and, although they came close to a late equaliser, the reality is coach Dennis Lawrence has now gone six successive matches without a win.
Next up is a pivotal Russia 2018 World Cup qualifier against Honduras on 1 September. Fail to win then and it is curtains for Trinidad and Tobago’s lingering qualifying hopes.
Jamaica are still riding on a high from their second placed finish at the 2017 CONCACAF Gold Cup although only one starter from that final, defender Ladel Richie, featured tonight along with five substitutes from the marquee event.
Jamaica coach Theodore “Tappa” Whitmore even gave a debut to 16-year-old attacker Kaheem Parris in the second half, who is believed to now be his country’s youngest senior international.
In contrast, Lawrence used six players who have already featured in Trinidad and Tobago’s World Cup qualifying campaign and another three with competitive senior international experience.
There could be no faulting their effort and Lawrence might argue, with some justification, that his team deserved a draw. But, collectively, it was not good enough from the hosts who lacked personality and tempo when it mattered most.
Jamaica enjoyed the better of the early exchanges and were rewarded with the opener in the sixth minute. Alvin Jones charged down an attempted cross by opposing striker Shamar Nicholson but the Trinidad and Tobago defence failed to push forward or put pressure on the ball.
Jamaica left back Ricardo Morris collected the loose ball and played a deep cross towards to the last post where Jamiel Hardware collected in space and stepped inside Warriors left back Kevon Villaroel to slap into the far corner.
It was a shabby start to Villaroel’s home debut and his second senior international overall—after he made his bow in a 3-1 loss to Ecuador in Guayaquil last month.
Villaroel’s next contribution to the match was much more promising though.
This time, it was the Trinidad and Tobago left back who received time and space—albeit from a far less likely position down the flank. North East Stars fans know he can strike them from there, though, and Jamaica goalkeeper Shaven Paul learned as much the hard way, as Villaroel beat him with a superb lobbed effort that went in off the underside of the bar.
The Warriors had two opportunities to go ahead before the interval. Midfielder Hughtun Hector hit wide from 12 yards off a Jones cross while Jared London failed to hit the target from on top of the opposing box, after a pass from Marcus Joseph found him with time and space.
But it was largely a slap-dash affair, as the 2,800 fans had to put up with a prodding tempo and wayward touches from both sides.
Guyanese referee Sherwin Moore, a regular choice for friendly internationals here, hardly covered himself in glory either. Moore failed to spot when the Jamaican goalkeeper clumsily handled a back pass in the 32nd minute. And the T&T players were adamant that his eyesight cheated them again when a 25-yard free kick from Jamaican midfielder Ewan Grandison deflected—supposedly off an opposing arm—to beat Warriors goalkeeper and stand-in custodian Marvin Phillip in the 56th minute.
It was Grandison’s first international goal on the occasion of his 10th cap.
The Warriors should have equalised again in the 66th minute, as a sweeping attacking move ended at the feet of substitute Hashim Arcia with only the opposing goalkeeper to beat. But Arcia tried to go around Paul, who made a low save, and the chance was gone.
Still, in stoppage time, it looked as though Trinidad and Tobago might save face as versatile defender Aubrey David got on the end of a Cato cross and headed towards the vacant far corner.
David was already sprinting towards the corner flag with arms in the air to celebrate when Jones, who was standing alone at the far post in an offside position, instinctively flicked his boot at the goalbound effort to hurry it over the line.
The flag of the referee’s assistant went up promptly and and the ‘goal’ was disallowed.
It meant the fifth loss of Lawrence’s tenure, which started with wins over Barbados and Panama but since saw the Warriors fail to triumph against Mexico, Grenada, USA, Costa Rica, Ecuador and now Jamaica as well.
Trinidad and Tobago (4-1-2-3): 1.Marvin Phillip (captain); 16.Alvin Jones, 2.Aubrey David, 18.Triston Hodge, 3.Kevon Villaroel; 15.Curtis Gonzales (12.Neil Benjamin Jr 80); 13.Hughtun Hector (10.Hashim Arcia 46), 19.Jared London; 7.Cordell Cato, 9.Marcus Joseph, 8.Nathan Lewis (11.Tyrone Charles 61).
Unused substitutes: 22.Adrian Foncette (GK), 4.Taryk Sampson, 5.Julio Noel, 6.Akeem Benjamin, 14.Nathaniel Garcia, 17.Maurice Ford, 20.Rundell Winchester.
Coach: Dennis Lawrence
Jamaica (4-4-1-1): 23.Shaven Paul (GK); 3.Javain Brown, 2.Rosario Harriott, 4.Ladale Richie, 19.Ricardo Morris; 7.Jamiel Hardware (6.Kaheem Parris 80), 9.Ewan Grandison, 12.Michael Binns (captain), 18.Marvin Morgan (8.Alex Marshall 69); 20.Fabian Reid (15.Rondee Smith 85); 10.Shamar Nicholson (16.Jermaine Johnson 71).
Unused substitutes: 13.Amal Knight (GK), 11.Vishinul Harris, 14.Leonard Rankine.
Coach: Theodore Whitmore
Referee: Sherwin Johnson (Guyana)