The Trinidad and Tobago National Under-17 Team arguably started today as underdogs in Group E but ended it as group leaders, as they downed Bermuda 3-1 in their opening 2019 Concacaf Under-17 Championship fixture.
The result virtually assure the Junior Soca Warriors of a place in the tournament’s Round of 16 stage, as three from the four Group E teams advance to the knockout stage with only the table proppers facing early elimination.
Mexico and Jamaica complete the Group E quartet and both also met each other this evening with the North American outfit prevailing 1-0.
National Under-17 Team head coach Stern John hailed the vital result in his first competitive match on the job.
“It’s a critical win for us because we knew this game was one we needed to pick up points to put ourselves in a good position to advance to the next stage,” John told the TTFA Media.
Bermuda are preparing for their maiden Gold Cup appearance at senior level while their Under-17 squad has been in preparation in months, so they were not short of confidence going into today’s affair. But Trinidad and Tobago were hungrier and more positive and got due reward in the 24th minute.
Lanky forward Justin Araujo-Wilson deftly took a pass from teammate Jean-Heim Mc Fee into his path and evaded retreating defender Mazhi Simmons in one fluent motion before burying into the far corner with his right boot. It was a goal made on Mucurapo Street with a current Fatima College student supplying a past pupil.
It was not the only debt of gratitude that Trinidad and Tobago would owe to Fatima on the day either.
Arajuo-Wilson doubled the Warriors’ lead, 14 minutes later, with a left footed finish from close quarters off a pass from Netherlands-based attacking midfielder Tyrese Pierre.
And, when Bermuda set pulses racing by pulling a goal back through Nazuri Dailey in the 75th minute, Fatima midfielder Andrew De Gannes came off the bench to settle the frayed nerves with a speculative left footed effort from distance in the 92nd minute.
The fourth Fatima player in the squad was the captain Zachary Welch who played as a midfield anchor for the Warriors.
John gave qualified praise to his charges who almost conceded an equaliser in the 81st minute, only for Bermuda attacker Ne-Jai Tucker to bang his penalty off an upright.
“We made hard work of it at the end,” said John. “I said before the game that the key for us would be settling early and the goal by Justin helped but we should have done better in the second half to take the game away from them.
“We kept them in it and they didn’t lie down.”
Conversely, Trinidad and Tobago could have been out of sight long before the final whistle with defender Luke Savery and Araujo-Wilson both striking the bar from good scoring opportunities.
It will get tougher from here with the Warriors set to face Jamaica on Friday evening before ending the group stage against Mexico on Sunday.
Bermuda must defeat either Jamaica or Mexico and hope that Trinidad and Tobago fail to pick up any points in those games to deny the twin island republic of progress.
John stressed that they are not nearly satisfied yet, though.
“I think we needed to be a bit more disciplined and keep the ball a bit better,” said the National Under-17 head coach and Tobago’s record senior team goal scorer, “but I was pleased with the way we transitioned into attack and created chances. Justin took his two goals well and should have had a third and then Andrew took his goal very well.
“It’s just the first win and there’s much more to do here so we’ll recover for this and get ready for Jamaica.”
T&T U-17: 20.Kahlil Oliver (GK); 2.Nigel Carraby, 3.Luke Savery (18.Isa Sayeed 81), 4.Jordon Britto (10.Andrew De Gannes 79), 5.Cephas St Rose; 6.Zachary Welch (captain), 17.Kevan Kahoussi, 19.Ajani Fortune; 11.Jean-Heim Mc Fee (12.Curtis De Leon 54), 9.Justin Araujo-Wilson, 8.Tyrese Pierre;
Unused substitutes: 1.Isaiah Williams (GK), 7.Jaiye Sheppard, 13.Gary Griffith III, 14.Jerrell Nixon, 15.Jeremy Lashley, 16.Keilon Burnett-Acevaro.
Coach: Stern John