An assured performance from Trinidad and Tobago Women’s National Senior Team goalkeeper Kimika Forbes saw the host nation hold Panama to a goalless draw in the first of two friendly contests at the Ato Boldon Stadium in Couva this afternoon.
The Women Soca Warriors went long periods without the ball and were stretched at times down the flanks. But interim head coach Kenwyne Jones was pleased with his charges’ efforts after two years of inactivity—their last outing was a goalless draw against Dominica on 8 October 2019.
“After not being active for two years, I think they performed pretty well,” said Jones, in the post-game press conference. “Of course, there were instances that Panama caused us problems but I think they were very resilient and handled it very well.
“[…] From here, we can really expect a lot of progression.”
Led by midfielder Karyn Forbes, sister to the gifted goalkeeper, Trinidad and Tobago were never overawed and threatened whenever possible as well.
Norway-based forward Kennya ‘Yaya’ Cordner wore national colours tonight for the first time since the 2018 Concacaf Women’s Championship while midfielder Maylee Attin-Johnson had not represented the two-island republic—on the field at least—since 2016. Both played 90 minutes.
There were solid contributions too from the back three of Victoria Swift, Lauryn Hutchinson and Rhea Belgrave, and forward Raenah Campbell gave glimpses of a direct running threat to the opposition.
But as Panama enjoyed more meaningful time in possession through the artful Karla Riley and Marta Cox along with numerical advantage down the sides of the park through overlapping full backs, it was left to Kimika to keep the Warriors on level terms.
One first-half save which tipped a Cox free kick against the bar was the pick of the bunch for the Plymouth-born player, although there were a few to choose from.
“[Kimika] has always been a very strong presence in the team,” said Jones. “When she commands the box as she does, she really gives the team the impetus to go on and you can see the confidence it gives the defenders.”
Cox, an irrepressible figure down either flank, hit the post again in the 80th minute while Warriors captain, Karyn, also hit the bar with an angled strike in the 58th minute.
Karyn’s shot was the only meaningful attempt on goal by the hosts. But then Trinidad and Tobago must have expected a tough contest. On the last occasion that these teams met, Panama won 3-0 at the 2018 Concacaf Championship.
After barely three days in charge, Jones may not want to take too much credit just yet. But it is hard not to see the result as an improvement for a team that crashed out of the Tokyo Olympic qualifiers at the Caribbean stage in 2019, under then head coach Stephan De Four.
Tactically, it was a mixed bag as Trinidad and Tobago’s three-member defence kept lively Panama forward Lineth Cedeño on a leash but were often overrun down either flank.
However, Jones said the team’s 3-5-2 system—a blueprint laid by former coach James Thomas—is a work in progress and expects his players to improve as they better understand their responsibilities.
“It is something new we are implementing,” said Jones. “The system is not [being executed] perfect yet [as] the players are still understanding it. But I think it is going to work with the players who are going to come into the squad.”
After a farcical fortnight, women football fans can take heart from that.
Trinidad and Tobago (3-4-1-2): 1.Kimika Forbes (GK); 8.Victoria Swift, 20.Lauryn Hutchinson, 4.Rhea Belgrave; 7.Liana Hinds, 14.Karyn Forbes (captain) (2.Collette Morgan 90), 18.Naomie Guerra (12.Chelcy Ralph 68), 10.Anya De Courcy; 9.Maylee Attin-Johnson; 11.Raenah Campbell (13.Dennecia Prince 78), 19.Kennya Cordner.
Unused substitutes: 21.Tenesha Palmer (GK), 22.Malaika Dedier (GK), 3.Aaliyah Prince, 5.Meyah Romeo, 6.Maya Matouk, 15.Laurelle Theodore, 16.Janelle McGee, 17.Jonelle Cato, 23.Adrianna Arjoon.
Coach: Kenwyne Jones
Panama (4-2-3-1): 1.Farissa Córdoba (GK); 4.Katherine Castillo, 14.Yerenis De Leon, 5.Yomira Pinzón (captain), 3.Carina Baltrip; 7.Deysire Salazar, 8.Laurie Batista; 10.Marta Cox, 9.Karla Riley (6.Aldrith Quintero 73), 16.Whitney De Obaldia (15.Susy Cassinova 46 [17.Yamileth Palacio 73]); 19.Lineth Cedeño.
Unused substitutes: 2.Yirsi Salas, 11.Yvamara Rodriguez, 12.Nadia Ducreux, 13.Izaura Tryhane, 18.Ana Quintero, 20.Schiandra Gonzales.
Coach: Ignacio Quintana
Referee: Cecile Hinds