The Trinidad and Tobago Men’s National Team were well beaten but far from disgraced in Tehran this morning, as they fell 1-0 to Iran in international friendly action.
Karim Ansarifard got the sole item for the host nation in the 49th minute. In truth, Iran, who competed in three of the last four FIFA World Cup tournaments, might easily have had three or four more goals.
Ansarifard, who plays professionally with Nottingham Forest in the England Championship, was the main culprit as he failed to convert a first half penalty along with a couple other decent opportunities. And, in the closing seconds, Iran substitute Ramin Rezaeian hit the bar.
In contrast, the Soca Warriors registered just one meaningful shot on target for the entire contest—an angled shot from Joevin Jones that rapped the bar in the second minute—and barely troubled the opposing defence.
Yet, there was still grounds for optimism for head coach Dennis Lawrence in the character and poise of his men on hostile territory. Trinidad and Tobago battled gamely throughout and the central midfield pairing of captain Khaleem Hyland and Leston Paul combined good ball movement with aggression.
By now, it is clear that Lawrence’s troops aim to possess the ball, express themselves and compete physically. And there was evidence of such today—even against a team ranked 30th in the world, which is 63 places higher than the Warriors.
But Trinidad and Tobago had too many gaps today to make a serious game of it. On the right flank, Alvin Jones and Nathan Lewis struggled—on and off the ball—while recalled attacker Lester Peltier, who played at centre forward, buzzed about encouragingly although he neither held up the ball nor attacked the channels with any regularity. And Ataulla Guerra and Jones rarely got room to create anything of note.
After both teams observed a minute’s silence for former Trinidad and Tobago international defender Jlloyd Samuel—who played professionally in Iran for three years—Ansarifard was gifted a penalty kick in the 31st minute, after midfielder Mehdi Torabi tumbled over a seemingly innocuous challenge from Paul. But veteran Warriors goalkeeper Marvin Phillip dived to his right to block the initial kick while, remarkably, Iran’s number 10 hit the rebound over the bar when it seemed harder to miss.
Trinidad and Tobago might have stunned their hosts in the 44th minute, as Peltier found space down the left flank and sent a teasing cross for the onrushing Nathan Lewis. But Lewis failed to get true contact on the ball and a decent opportunity went a-begging.
Trinidad and Tobago would not get another one.
Seconds after the interval, Phillip was forced into a fine reflex save by Ansarifard after a left side Ehsan Hajsafi cross. And the Nottingham Forest man finally got his goal in the 49th minute, as he stepped inside Jones [A] and Hyland and drilled an unstoppable strike past Phillip from the edge of the area.
Kaveh Rezaei and substitute Ashkan Dejagah were inches wide around the hour mark, as the game opened up.
Lawrence made three substitutions but none had a positive impact on the game. And, as Rezaeian’s half volley clipped the bar before going over, the Trinidad and Tobago coach had to be grateful for small mercies.
Nine of coach Carlos Quieroz’s 16 players used today—including six from their starting XI—represented Iran at the Russia 2018 World Cup. The average age of his team was 27 while the Iran players had a combined total of 346 caps.
At the other end, Lawrence’s starting team had an average of 28. Only Phillip (34), Guerra (31) and Peltier (30) are above 29 while late substitute Isaiah lee is just 19. And the combined appearances of the Warriors team at kick off was 469.
If Lawrence and his troops get more sparring matches of this calibre, the 2019 Gold Cup should offer an intriguing glimpse of their capabilities.
Trinidad and Tobago (4-2-3-1): 1.Marvin Phillip (GK); 16.Alvin Jones, 5.Daneil Cyrus, 4.Sheldon Bateau, 18.Triston Hodge; 23.Leston Paul, 8.Khaleem Hyland (captain); 19.Nathan Lewis, 10.Ataulla Guerra (13.Duane Muckette 61), 3.Joevin Jones (7.Cordell Cato 71); 11.Lester Peltier (17.Isaiah Lee 80).
Unused substitutes: 21.Nicklas Frenderup (GK), 22.Adrian Foncette (GK), 2.Aubrey David, 6.Keston Julien, 12.Akeem Humphrey, 15.Curtis Gonzales, 21.Jomal Williams.
Coach: Dennis Lawrence
Iran (4-1-4-1): 22.Hossein Hosseini (GK); 2.Vouria Ghafouri (23.Ramin Rezaeian 77), 4.Rouzbeh Cheshmi, 14.Hossein Kanaanizadegan, 3.Ehsan Hajsafi; 26.Ahmad Nourollahi; 16.Mehdi Torabi (28.Sadegh Moharrami 58), 7.Masoud Shojaei (captain) (21.Ashkan Dejagah 58), 10.Karim Ansarifard (24.Ali Gholizadeh 77), 11.Vahid Amiri (9.Omid Ebrahimi 58); 27.Kaveh Rezaei.
Coach: Carlos Quieroz