The Trinidad and Tobago National Senior Team oozed character and composure in Spain this afternoon, as they brushed aside four months of inactivity to defeat the United Arab Emirates (UAE) 2-0 in friendly international action in Girona.
Attacking midfielder Ataulla Guerra, who represents Charleston Battery in the US second tier competition, marked his first start for his country in three years with a classy opener in the 36th minute. And pacy winger Nathan Lewis, another United Soccer League player albeit with Indy Eleven, completed the score summary with a predatory finish in the 58th minute.
The Soca Warriors deserved their result too against a UAE effort that had more of the ball but lacked offensive teeth and rarely looked capable of penetrating the opposing back line.
UAE forward Ali Mabkhout came closest to a goal for the Arab outfit, with a pair of snap shots that fizzed just wide when the Trinidad and Tobago backline was slow to press. But it was a generally a composed, workmanlike performance from the Warriors, who matched Iran stride for stride and rarely faltered over 90 minutes.
Notably, Trinidad and Tobago head coach Dennis Lawrence started just one outfield player who is still employed with the Pro League, as W Connection defender Triston Hodge played at left back—ahead of of Central FC goalkeeper Marvin Phillip.
Otherwise, Lawrence started with four Europe-based players, three from the United States and two from the Middle East. Hodge did not last the match either, as he was replaced by Slovak-based left back Keston Julien, midway through the second half.
Lawrence’s foreign-based army did not let him down. Lewis, in particular, looked in fine shape and terrorised UAE down either flank in the opening half. It was almost predictable that the pacy flanker was involved in the opener, as he cut in off the left flank and passed to forward Shahdon Winchester, who dummied the ball to Guerra.
And Guerra gracefully glided past UAE defender Monad Salem before depositing the ball to the right of opposing goalkeeper Khalid Eisa.
The fluency of the movement made a mockery of the Warriors’ lack of training sessions in Spain, as the visitors were unable to get to a football field before yesterday morning.
UAE coach Alberto Zaccheroni, a former Serie A champion with AC Milan, started an experimental team to face the Warriors with six fresh call-ups in his first team. Before the Italian coach could turn to his bench, Trinidad and Tobago doubled their lead as Lewis dashed ahead of dozing Iran left wing back, Mahmoud Al Hammadi, to tap home an incisive cross from Germany-based winger Joevin Jones.
UAE substitute Ismael Al Hammadi threatened in the closing stages while Trinidad and Tobago goalkeeper Marvin Phillip made a diving save to keep out a Mabkhout freekick. But the Warriors fully deserved the win.
“The boys played well and fought well,” Lawrence told the TTFA Media, after the match. “Despite the adversity we had a good football match and I am pleased with the effort and the spirit shown by the team.”
Trinidad and Tobago are due to return to action next month when they play Thailand in a friendly in Bangkok on 14 October. The UAE are ranked 77th in the world by FIFA while Thailand are 122nd. Trinidad and Tobago are ranked 91st.
Trinidad and Tobago (4-2-3-1): 1.Marvin Phillip (GK); 2.Aubrey David, 4.Sheldon Bateau, 5.Daneil Cyrus, 18.Triston Hodge (6.Keston Julien); 19.Kevan George, 8.Khaleem Hyland (captain); 7.Nathan Lewis (12.Kathon St Hillaire 88), 9.Ataulla Guerra (16.Neveal Hackshaw 67), 3.Joevin Jones (23.Jomal Williams 83); 10.Shahdon Winchester (11.Marcus Joseph 74).
Unused substitutes: 22.Adrian Foncette (GK), 15.Curtis Gonzales, 14.Akeem Humphrey, 13.Duane Muckette.
Coach: Dennis Lawrence
UAE (3-4-3): Khalid Eisa (GK); 20.Mohammed Marzooq (16.Hassan Al Saheh 81), 19.Ismail Ahmed, 6.Mohnad Salem; 2.Mohamed Barghash, 8.Majed Ahmed (25.Ali Salmin 59), 13.Khamis Esmaeel, 21.Mahmoud Al Hammadi; 10.Omar Abdulrahman, 7.Ali Mabkhout, 11.Ahmed Khalil (captain) (15.Ismail Al Hammadi 59).
Unused substitutes: 1.Ali Humaid (GK), 22.Fahad Ahmed (GK), 9.Ahmed Barman, 23.Mohamed Ahmed, 5.Amer Abdulrahman, 26.Bandar Sahmeed, 3.Walid Murad, 4.Khalifa Mubarak, 14.Rayan Mohammed, 17.Fares Hasan.
Coach: Alberto Zaccheroni