The Trinidad and Tobago Men’s National Senior Team opened their Concacaf Nations League campaign with a result tonight, as they fought back to hold Martinique 1-1 at the Stade Pierre Aliker in Fort-de-France.
A win against the same opponent at the Hasely Crawford Stadium on Monday night could go a long way towards helping the Soca Warriors retain their position among Concacaf’s 12 top tier nations—although they remain some distance from a place in the Hex for the Qatar 2022 World Cup qualifying series.
Head coach Dennis Lawrence said beforehand that he learned his lesson about using non-active players in competitive fixtures. And his newfound focus on form saw Seattle Sounders flanker Joevin Jones returned to the starting line-up while Marcus Joseph made only his second start in two and a half years under Lawrence.
Jones got the Warriors’ only goal too, although it was a mixed showing from the pair.
Ryan Telfer, the Canada-based forward who debuted tonight, took to senior international football like a duck to water though. He was one of Trinidad and Tobago’s best performers in Fort-de-France, alongside midfielders Kevin Molino and Leston Paul and left back Aubrey David.
But, in the end, the result hinged on the narrowest of margins as Martinique attacker Johnny Marajo struck an upright in second half stoppage time with Warriors custodian Marvin Phillip well beaten.
The result was about as much as the visitors deserved. But only barely.
Trinidad and Tobago started brightly as they surprised their hosts with a high press and created four half chances in the opening 25 minutes. The first three fell to Joseph and he was caught between either rushing his shot or delaying.
Telfer gave Martinique their first scare in the 25th minute, as his powerful header from a Paul cross was pushed for a corner by flying Frenchman Loic Chauvet.
By the half hour mark, Martinique had taken control, though, and they pulled ahead off a corner kick in the 39th minute. Captain and central defender Sheldon Bateau misjudged his jump and then Joevin Jones turned his back to the Martinique shooter, Julio Donisa. Donisa’s shot deflected off Jones and fell fortuitously for Paris-born midfielder Cyril Mandouki, who converted the simple chance to put the hosts ahead.
Mandouki, a lower league player in France, made his debut tonight for Martinique.
By halftime, Martinique led Trinidad and Tobago on every count with 52 per cent possession, 10 shots to four and four corners to one.
But Lawrence’s debutant, Telfer, helped the Warriors pull level in the 63rd minute with an impressive solo run on the break before squaring to his former Fatima College school mate, Bateau, who was clattered in the opposing area by retreating defender Ambroise Felicitet. And Jones made no mistake from the spot.
Bateau’s gamble to follow Telfer’s run—he was the only Trinidad and Tobago player to do so—arguably compensated for his defensive lapse in Martinique’s opener.
Israel-based winger Levi Garcia made a few lively runs from off the bench while Molino’s close control and trickery intermittently worried the host team.
But it was all Martinique in the closing 12 minutes as Abaul shot straight at Phillip after ghosting behind Bateau in the 80th minute while a courageous last ditch David challenge denied Marajo in the 86th minute.
Marajo thought he had conjured up the winner in stoppage time, after good approach work by substitute Thierry Catherine, only to strike the far upright.
The final whistle meant Lawrence’s run without a win now stands at 10 matches, dating back to their 2-0 friendly triumph over the United Arab Emirates on 6 September 2018.
However, many a Trinidad and Tobago coach would be satisfied with a draw in Martinique. The Warriors need a win at the Hasely Crawford Stadium before local football fans can finally exhale though.
Trinidad and Tobago (4-1-4-1): 1.Marvin Phillip (GK); 2.Aubrey David, 4.Sheldon Bateau (captain), 5.Daneil Cyrus, 17.Ross Russell Jr (16.Alvin Jones 71), 19.Kevan George, 23.Leston Paul, 3.Joevin Jones (11.Levi Garcia 71), 10.Kevin Molino, 7.Ryan Telfer (20.Jomal Williams 76), 15.Marcus Joseph,
Unused substitutes: 21.Glenroy Samuel (GK), 22.Adrian Foncette (GK), 6.Keston Julien, 8.Andre Fortune Jr, 9.Jameel Perry, 12.Carlyle Mitchell, 13.Judah Garcia, 14.Daniel Carr, 18.Nathaniel Garcia.
Coach: Dennis Lawrence
Martinique (4-2-4): 1.Loic Chauvet (GK); 22.Romario Barthelery, 3.Ambroise Felicitet, 21.Sebastien Cretinor (captain), 2.Yordan Thimon; 19.Daniel Herelle, 15.Cyril Mandouki (5.Karl Vitulin 78); 10.Julio Donisa (6.Thierry Catherine 84), 12.Johnny Marajo, 20.Stephane Abaul, 14.Yann Thimon (17.Montabord Rene-Charles 78).
Unused substitutes: 16.Amaud Des Etages (GK), 23.Stephane Michalet (GK), 4.Gerald Dondon, 7.Andy Cesar, 8.Jordy Delem, 9.Marvin Bellance, 11.Andy Mamy, 13.Christof Jougon.
Coach: Mario Bocaly