The Trinidad and Tobago National Senior Team tasted their first defeat in five months tonight, a last-gasp goal from Panama securing a 1-0 victory for the visitors at the Ato Boldon Stadium in Couva.
In the final minute of stoppage time, defender Curtis Gonzales lunged at a diagonal ball and failed to cut out the pass. And, in a flash, the ball was centred for Jesus Gonzales to ram past Soca Warriors goalkeeper Adrian Foncette for the deciding item.
In theory, tonight’s game represented a chance for fringe players to stake a claim for Panama’s World Cup squad. Only three of the players in the Central American squad had more than 10 caps while there were roughly seven debutants.
But, although midfielders Leslie Heraldez and Valentin Pimentel shuffled the ball around confidently and left-back Sergio Ortega was a force going forward, there was little individual dynamism from either team.
Trinidad and Tobago did not manage a single shot on target for 93 minutes while they could not string together five successive passes in the opposing half either.
Still, the Warriors might have scored first as Akeem Roach stepped in off the left flank and delivered a clever cross for debutant and fellow substitute, Nicholas Dillon. Inexplicably, Dillon, who had been on the field for less than a minute, ducked to leave the ball for someone else. And the opportunity went a-begging.
Shiva Boys Hindu College schoolboy Judah Garcia made his debut tonight too and his entrance was greeted by the loudest roar of the night from the 2,300-odd spectators.
But by then, the game already seemed to be drifting towards a drab draw with Foncette and his central defensive team of Gonzales and Daneil Cyrus relatively comfortable.
The Warriors were unbeaten in five games and had not conceded in three earlier games this year. And then a late error meant Lawrence did not even hold on to that consolation.
Trinidad and Tobago (4-1-4-1): Adrian Foncette (GK); 16.Alvin Jones (19.Kathon St Hillaire 86), 5.Daneil Cyrus (captain), 15.Curtis Gonzales, 18.Triston Hodge, 17.Jared London, 7.Cordell Cato (2.Jameel Neptune 83), 13.Kevon Goddard (20.Nathaniel Garcia 72), 14.Hashim Arcia (11.Nicholas Dillon 61), 12.Reon Moore (9.Akeem Roach 53), 10.Marcus Joseph (8.Judah Garcia 79).
Unused substitutes: 1.Marvin Phillip (GK), 21.Andre Marchan (GK), 4.Rhondel Gibson, 6.Maurice Ford, 23.Isaiah Hudson, 25.Taryk Sampson, 27.Justin Sadoo.
Coach: Dennis Lawrence
Panama (4-2-2-2): 12.Jose Calderon (GK) (captain); 13.Francisco Palacio, 3.Chin Hormechea, 4.Richard Peralta, 23.Sergio Ortega, 6.Leslie Heraldez (11.Alexis Palacio 46), 14.Valentin Pimentel (20.Adalberto Carrasquilla 60), 19.Josiel Nunez (8.Ronaldo Botello 46), 10.Omar Browne (16.Oscar Villarreal 60), 7.Carlos Small (21.Ronaldo Dinolis 46, 9.Jose Fajardo (17.Jesus Gonzales 60).
Unused substitutes: 1.Alex Rodriguez (GK).
Coach: Hernán Dario Gomez
Referee: Reon Radix (Grenada)