Dream over! T&T fall 2-1 to Honduras in scrappy affair before half-empty Couva stadium

Trinidad and Tobago still have a mathematical chance of getting to the Russia 2018 World Cup through the FIFA Play-off route but it seems naive to the point of unrealistic to expect it now.

At home, the Soca Warriors just were not good enough and, in a bottom-of-the-table CONCACAF Hex clash, contrived to finish 2-1 losers to Honduras at the Ato Boldon Stadium in Couva.

Photo: Honduras winger Alberth Ellis (left) runs at Trinidad and Tobago defender Sheldon Bateau during World Cup 2018 qualifying action at the Ato Boldon Stadium in Couva on 1 September 2017.
(Courtesy Sean Morrison/Wired868)l

The Warriors must win all three remaining matches now and those include a trip to Mexico City and the dreaded Azteca Stadium. But, judging from tonight, you would not feel confident about T&T’s chances even if they played all their remaining matches right in Trinidad.

It was a shambolic end to a World Cup qualifying campaign that started so brightly last October with a 2-1 win away to Guatemala. Less than half of the starting team from that qualifier played tonight.

Captain and centre-forward Kenwyne Jones missed out through injury, winger Lester Peltier has I retired, playmaker Keron Cummings suffered an astonishing loss of form after being shot and defenders Radanfah Abu Bakr and Mekeil Williams and midfielder Andre Boucaud have been overlooked by current coach Dennis Lawrence.

It would be a brave man to say that Lawrence has improved on the squad he inherited, based on the performances tonight—individually or collectively. But the issues are far more wide-ranging than the lack of cohesion and technical flaws evident tonight.

There were just over 3,000 fans at the Ato Boldon venue tonight at kick-off and still barely 5,000 by the time Mexican referee Fernando Guerro blew his whistle for the last time—in stark contrast to the 22,000 supporters who turned out for the last Trinbago Knight Riders CPL T20 affair at the Queen’s Park Oval in Port of Spain.

Photo: TTFA president David John-Williams (centre), media officer Shaun Fuentes (left) and new Soca Warriors coach Dennis Lawrence at the TTFA headquarters on 30 January 2017.
(Copyright Allan V Crane/TTFA)

Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA) president David John-Williams masterminded the venue change from the Hasely Crawford Stadium in Port-of-Spain to Couva and was publicly supported by Lawrence.

The idea, according to both men, was to create a better atmosphere by packing in a smaller ground while also benefitting from better facilities at the newer venue. There were even four extra temporary stands constructed to house the expected additional supporters in a stadium built for 10,000 patrons.

Instead, farcically, barely half the supporters who backed the team in Port-of-Spain turned up tonight while one of the light towers went out before kick-off and never came back on.

The Couva venue, as stated repeatedly in Wired868, is the most difficult venue to reach for travelling fans and not much better in terms of traffic and parking for those who drive themselves.

Throw in the fact that the game was on a week night, the stadium has no nearby ‘night life’, the TTFA did not think of offering a discount for children on the last day of the schools’ vacation and the Warriors have not won a match in almost six months and you’d conclude that there were just too many reasonable excuses for all but the most die-hard supporters to stay away.

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago and Honduras play under a malfunctioning light tower during World Cup 2018 qualifying action at the Ato Boldon Stadium in Couva on 1 September 2017.
(Courtesy Sean Morrison/Wired868)

As the Trinidad and Tobago starting team stood at attention for the national anthems, the incompetence of their administrators was unmistakeable in the form of empty seats.

Still, the lack of visible support hardly justified what followed as the Warriors put in one of the worst 45-minute spells of the qualifying series.

“I don’t understand exactly what went on with the boys,” said Lawrence, at the post-match media conference. “I don’t know if the occasion got to them but it was not a first half that we expected.”

Within the first 30 minutes, the game already looked beyond the Warriors. Honduran playmaker Alexander Lopez scored after seven minutes as the home defence failed to clear a straightforward diagonal left-side cross—with the usually reliable goalkeeper Jan-Michael Williams and defender Sheldon Bateau both culpable.

It got worse in the 16th minute as a Romell Quito squared left-side cross beat the entire defence and Alberth Ellis turned it in at the far post with a side-footed volley.

You could hear a hairpin drop at the Ato Boldon Stadium.

Photo: Honduras midfielder Alfredo Mejia (centre) takes a pop at the Trinidad and Tobago goal during World Cup 2018 qualifying action at the Ato Boldon Stadium in Couva on 1 September 2017.
(Courtesy Sean Morrison/Wired868)

Bateau might have pulled a goal back but headed wide from a promising position off a Joevin Jones free-kick while Cordell Cato forced opposing goalkeeper Luis Lopez into a sprawling, low save early on. But at halftime, the Warriors looked dead and buried.

Lawrence responded by changing right-backs as Alvin Jones, Joevin’s younger brother, replaced Aubrey David. It was the first time that the Jones boys shared the field at National Senior Team level. But the family affair lasted barely 11 minutes.

In the 56th minute, Alvin lunged into a tackle on Honduras midfielder Alfredo Mejia and Guerro showed him a straight red card. The Warriors were two goals and a man down.

If it were not for bad luck, Lawrence would have no luck at all.

It should have been 3-0 in the 61st minute as Honduras left-back Emilio Izaguirre picked out Ellis at the back post only for the attacker’s headed attempt to ricochet off the upright.

But then, in the 64th minute, out of nothing came a sliver of hope for the hosts. Joevin and Kevin Molino combined on top the opposing penalty area and the latter set Khaleem Hyland up with a shooting opportunity from 10 yards out.

As Hyland screwed his shot wide, Guerro ruled that Izaguirre had caught him with a late tackle and the Mexican pointed to the penalty spot and flashed a second yellow card and a red at the Honduran left-back.

Photo: Honduras defender Emilio Izaguirre (centre) is sent off by Mexican referee Fernando Guerro after a foul on Trinidad and Tobago midfielder Khaleem Hyland during World Cup 2018 qualifying action at the Ato Boldon Stadium in Couva on 1 September 2017.
(Courtesy Sean Morrison/Wired868)

Joevin converted neatly and in one swoop Trinidad and Tobago had halved the deficit and offset Honduras’ numerical advantage.

It might have been a different story if Molino had done better with a left-side Joevin cross in the 71st minute but the MLS playmaker could not disentangle his feet in time and hit woefully wide. And the Warriors could not take advantage of their improved second-half showing.

In fact, Honduras could have still easily stretched their advantage. Substitute Carlo Costly missed a free opportunity after a blunder by Trinidad and Tobago left-back Kevon Villaroel while, after ghosting past Bateau, Quito also hit over the bar from the edge of the area.

The final whistle put fans out of their misery and, almost certainly, signalled time on the Warriors’ campaign.

After today’s sorry showing—from administrators to supporters to players—the prevailing emotion might have been relief.

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago midfielder Kevin Molino (left) takes a water break during World Cup 2018 qualifying action against Honduras at the Ato Boldon Stadium in Couva on 1 September 2017.
(Courtesy Sean Morrison/Wired868)


Trinidad and Tobago (4-1-4-1): 21.Jan-Michael Williams (GK) (captain); 2.Aubrey David (16.Alvin Jones 46), 5.Daneil Cyrus, 4.Sheldon Bateau, 13.Kevon Villaroel; 19.Kevan George; 7.Cordell Cato (16.Nathan Lewis 77), 8.Khaleem Hyland, 10.Kevin Molino, 3.Joevin Jones; 20.Jamille Boatswain (9.Willis Plaza 56).

Unused substitutes: 1.Marvin Phillip (GK), 22.Adrian Foncette (GK), 6.Radanfah Abu Bakr, 11.Tyrone Charles, 12.Carlyle Mitchell, 18.Hughtun Hector, 15.Curtis Gonzales, 17.Mekeil Williams, 23.Leston Paul.

Coach: Dennis Lawrence

Honduras (4-3-3): 1.Luis Lopez (GK); 2.Felix Crisanto, 3.Maynor Figueroa, 4.Henry Figueroa, 7.Emilio Izaguirre; 20.Jorge Claros, 8.Alfredo Mejia, 10.Alexander Lopez (14.Boniek García 77); 17.Alberth Ellis (23.Jhonny Palacios 68), 9.Anthony Lozano (13.Carlo Costly 46), 12.Romell Quioto.

Unused substitutes: 18.Ricardo Canales (GK), 5.Ovidio Lanza, 6.Carlos Discua, 11.Eddie Hernandez, 15.Carlos Sanchez, 16.Jhonny Leveron, 19.Oliver Morazan, 21.Sergio Peña.

Coach: Jorge Luis Pinto

Referee: Fernando Guerro (Mexico)

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago right back Alvin Jones (left) lunges into a tackle on Honduras forward Carlo Costly during 2018 World Cup qualifying action at the Ato Boldon Stadium in Couva on 1 September 2017.
Honduras won 2-1 while Jones was ejected within 11 minutes of his introduction as a second half substitute.
(Copyright AFP 2017/Alva Viarrruel)

CONCACAF World Cup qualifying results

(Friday 1 September)

Trinidad and Tobago 1 (Joevin Jones 64 pen), Honduras 2 (Alexander Lopez 7, Alberth Ellis 16) at Couva;

United States 0, Costa Rica 2 (Marco Ureña 30, 82) at New Jersey;

Mexico 1 (Hirving Lozano 53), Panama 0 at Mexico City;

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago midfielder Kevan George (left) passes the ball under pressure from Honduras forward Anthony Lozano during World Cup 2018 qualifying action at the Ato Boldon Stadium in Couva on 1 September 2017.
(Courtesy Sean Morrison/Wired868)


Mexico            7-5-2-0-10-2-17

Costa Rica      7-4-2-1-11-4-14

United States  7-2-2-3-11-10-8

Honduras        7-2-2-3-8-15-8

Panama           7-1-4-2-4-5-7

T&T                7-1-0-6-4-12-3

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  1. T&T football sorry to say is the worst i’ve seen idk what going on really idk if it is a joke or not but we need people who really ready to fight down to the last minute !

  2. It was the worst I have see T&T played in a long while and some how I am not about to blame the coach Trinidad and Tobago players did not defen at all in the first half and the team had three clear cut chances to put away besides play badly and they did not put them away

  3. He is not ready maybe after some more years abroad learn the trade

  4. Y as soon as the footballers fail all you calling for the coach to go. Does that make sense

  5. This is by far the worst reasoning I have heard by a professional coach, and one who has a European background. Advertising fill stadiums TTFA.free advice

  6. To b honest our football is not international standard we need better programs from youths clinics and schools parents also we have good talent

  7. Hard luck brothers next time but well done for trying y’all best

  8. I sure I cud score goals for T&T I’m that good and I never do no training link meh Mr. Dennis Lawrence I’m that good find me I will save T&T from embarrasement up to you!?

  9. Why would U interfere with this Team??? Yes 2k16 was rough…but oh gorm T&T…oh gorm…. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yzOCoJL7K8Y

  10. We got chances to score an didnt so this cant be the coach fault

  11. The Jamaican friendly was a sign of what to expect in the Honduras game

  12. Only complain an none off u can’t do better

  13. i have never bin so disappointed with t&t football association in my life …once again t&t world cup dreams destroyed by football politics sorry our country is not like some footballing nations that banished you after failing terribly …. as we say in the ghetto… DAVID JOHN WILLIAMS YOUR A MAD MAN AND A BIG DUNCE …

  14. Mr Lawrence must go he has failed the team and should not blame senior players get back to being assistant coach he not ready for this level

  15. Bet you wish you were back in Belgium now huh Dennis.

  16. Lasana Liburd was Sol Campbell at the game and if not what was he reason for not being there?

  17. T&T players need to watch more TV…clearly they don’t know how aggressive and skillful the modern game is played…

  18. Do we really go anywhere from here,or just close the stadium down,and just like a big kennel make sure Jan Williams live right there running round pooping and barking,,you destroyed it all.

  19. Someone was actually expecting them to do better? They can’t blame the coach, they can’t blame the field so you know they won’t be accepting any responsibility themselves

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