The Soca Warriors came within seconds of a memorable result in Wales this evening, only to be undone by a stoppage time winner from 19 year old attacker Ben Woodburn as they fell 1-0 in Wrexham.
Wales are ranked 19th in the world by FIFA—some 74 places higher than Trinidad and Tobago—and coach Ryan Giggs used today’s friendly international to give a run out to his fringe players, as 12 players received their debuts for ‘The Dragons’ with Real Madrid superstar Gareth Bale and Arsenal, Bournemouth and Stoke City playmakers Aaron Ramsey, David Brooks and Joe Allen not even named among the substitutes.
But without their marquee players, Wales rarely looked capable of dismantling the Trinidad and Tobago backline and Central FC goalkeeper Marvin Phillip did not have a desperate save to make until he picked the ball from the back of his net.
It would be a stretch to say that the teams were even in any way but the scoreline, though. After the first 45 minutes, the hosts enjoyed 62 percent ball possession with 13 shots to just two from the twin island republic. But the Welsh play generally occurred in front of the Warriors’ backline while coach Dennis Lawrence’s team held their shape admirably and competed throughout.
And, as the game entered second half stoppage time, Trinidad and Tobago were the ones who had come closest to scoring. In the 59th minute, Warriors captain Khaleem Hyland released Levi Garcia, who had moved from the flank to the centre forward position, and the nippy 21 year old rounded the opposing goalkeeper before teeing up right back Aubrey David—an acknowledgement that Garcia was forced too wide to score himself.
David shot first time with his left foot; but Wales right wing back Chris Gunter backed up his custodian with a controlled goal line clearance.
Hyland, incidentally, could be credited with the move of the match too, as he tied Will Vaulks, George Thomas and Lee Evans in knots near the centre circle to ‘oohs’ of admiration from the partisan crowd.
But Hyland would not want to review his role in the game’s decisive moment, as he failed to track Woodburn who took full advantage with a finish from point blank range off a right side Vaulks cross in stoppage time.
It was Woodburn’s second international goal and created a neat bit of symmetry for the Liverpool youngster who is on loan at Sheffield United and is already Wales’ second youngest goal scorer.
And who is Wales’ youngest ever international goal scorer? Bale still holds that mark with a goal against Trinidad and Tobago, as a 17 year old in 2006.
Woodburn’s item would have felt like a gut punch for Lawrence. Arguably, the lanky rookie coach—who was headhunted for a vacant coaching job at Wrexham AFC, just months ago—did not do his CV any harm, with a solid showing on enemy soil despite travelling without his best attacking players, Kevin Molino, Joevin Jones and Ataulla Guerra, and relying on a collection of mostly lower league overseas-based players.
With the Pro League inactive at present, Lawrence did not use a single local-based outfield player in Wrexham today.
Trinidad and Tobago (4-3-2-1): 1.Marvin Phillip (GK); 2.Aubrey David, 4.Sheldon Bateau, 5.Daneil Cyrus, 18.Triston Hodge; 19.Kevan George, 23.Leston Paul (15.Neveal Hackshaw 80), 8.Khaleem Hyland (captain); 13.Nathan Lewis, 10.Levi Garcia (11.Lester Peltier 60); 9.Willis Plaza (7.Cordell Cato 46).
Unused substitutes: 21.Nicklas Frenderup (GK), 22.Adrian Foncette (GK), 6.Carlyle Mitchell, 12.Ross Russell Jr, 14.Akeem Humphrey, 16.Alvin Jones, 17.Mekeil Williams, 20.Duane Muckette.
Coach: Dennis Lawrence.
Wales (3-4-3): 1.Danny Ward (GK) (21.Adam Davies [GK]); 6.Ashley Williams (captain) (15.James Lawrence 61), 4.Paul Dummett (13.Declan John 61), 14.Ryan Hedges; 2.Chris Gunter, 16.Lee Evans, 7.Will Vaulks, 3.Neil Taylor; 10.Ben Woodburn, 9.Tyler Roberts (17.Rabbi Matondo 71), 11.George Thomas.
Unused substitutes: 8.Matthew Smith, 18.Connor Roberts, 19.Harry Wilson.
Coach: Ryan Giggs.