The Trinidad and Tobago Women’s National Senior Team closed their CFU Challenge Series adventure this evening with a 3-1 win over Guyana at the Ato Boldon Stadium in Couva.
The result saw the Women Soca Warriors secure their third straight win with 18 goals scored and two conceded against the combination of Suriname, Guyana and Grenada. The outings serve as their final warm-up games before coach Jamaal Shabazz’s team begins its France 2019 World Cup qualifying campaign next month.
Shabazz has moaned about the team’s poor performance in its two previous matches but he raised eyebrows this evening with his tactical tinkering.
Holding midfielder Karyn ‘Bibi’ Forbes spent long periods of the match at centre-forward, diminutive winger Shanelle Arjoon was used at left-back, full-back Jonelle Cato started at left-wing and Patrice Superville—who started at right-wing in their previous two matches—played in central defence.
Shabazz could point to the fact that two of the players he asked to improvise, Forbes and Cato, scored this evening. But it is difficult to imagine that a single one of those alterations would be attempted against the likes of Mexico, Canada and the United States in a few months’ time.
There could be no question that the changes got the job done, though, and the women’s head coach said his alterations were forced upon him by their opponents.
“In the first half, Guyana dropped right off and parked the bus and they had a player on ‘Bibi’ [Forbes] wherever she went,” Shabazz told Wired868. “So we pushed Bibi up to confuse them and get more room in midfield. Also our full-backs had loads of space but were not driving forward so I decided to change Arjoon with Jonelle [Cato].
“It wasn’t a matter of disrespecting the opponents. If Mexico tried to drop off and park the bus, I would do the same thing—even though I know they wouldn’t. This was our attempt to counter their tactics.”
Bustling teenager Shenieka Paul made her first start in her usual role in central midfield and got the opening goal for the Women Warriors inside the first quarter of an hour.
But Guyana equalised from the penalty spot in the 63rd minute through Singapore-based midfielder Mariam El-Masri and they caused a few jitters before a goalkeeping error by Aneesa O’Brien allowed Forbes to reclaim the lead for the hosts in the 75th minute.
O’Brien dropped a cross by Cato—who was at right-back at the time—and Forbes was on spot to tap into an unprotected net.
The Guyana team, which spent long periods penned into its own half, went down to 10 players in the 83rd minute after El-Masri lost her cool with Cuban referee Annia Navarette.
And Cato applied the final nail to the Guyanese coffin with a long-range effort in the 88th minute that went straight in after another moment to forget by custodian O’Brien.
Shabazz dismissed any suggestion that using players out of position for the sake of a win against Guyana meant the Women Warriors failed to use an opportunity to up the tempo in their usual roles.
Instead, the veteran coach said international football was about learning to adapt when the situation demanded it.
“The lesson wasn’t about where we played the player but how they adapt to a different tactical instruction,” said Shabazz. “That is an education in itself. They were not accustomed to a team dropping off and parking the bus so they stood there and [didn’t know what to do].
“At halftime, I said ‘This is how we will solve this’ and I made the changes. Arjoon made four crosses in the first half but in the second half she made nine. So it worked.”
Trinidad and Tobago (4-4-2): 22.Nicolette Craig (GK); 18.Naomie Guerra (11.Janine Francois 67), 8.Patrice Superville, 5.Jenelle Cunningham, 12.Shanelle Arjoon; 16.Liana Hinds (6.Natasha St Louis), 10.Tasha St Louis (captain), 13.Shenieka Paul (15.Kedie Johnson 58), 7.Jonelle Cato; 19.Aaliyah Prince, 14.Karyn Forbes.
Unused substitutes: 1.Saundra Baron (GK), 2.Ayana Russell, 3.Anastasia Prescott, 4.Shaunalee Govia, 17.Laurelle Theodore.
Coach: Jamaal Shabazz
CFU Challenge Series result
(29 April 2018)
Trinidad and Tobago 3 (Shenieka Paul 12, Karyn Forbes 75, Jonelle Cato 88), Guyana 1 (Mariam El-Masri 63 pen) at Ato Boldon Stadium, Couva.