Woodley, Kesar get debut goals as T&T edge Guyana in friendly

Trinidad and Tobago Men’s National Senior Team head coach Angus Eve got his first win of 2024 last night as the Soca Warriors held off Guyana 2-1 in a friendly international match at the Hasely Crawford Stadium in Port of Spain.

After over 20,000 patrons turned out to see a largely distinguished bunch of retired players in a Legends match last Friday at the same venue, Tuesday night marked the return to a drearier reality.

Trinidad and Tobago midfielder David Daniel (right) tries to elude Guyana midfielder Ryan Hackett during friendly international action at the Hasely Crawford Stadium on 13 May 2024.
Photo: Daniel Prentice/ Wired868

There was little star power in either camp with both teams relying almost entirely on local-based players. And football supporters voted in absentia, with barely 3,000 fans turning out to back the Soca Warriors.

For those that did venture out to the Hasely Crawford Stadium, two international rookies at wildly differing stages of their career at least offered some fascinating talking points.

Where were you when Kevon Woodley, Trinidad and Tobago’s all-time leading Beach Soccer goal scorer, opened his account in 11-a-side football with a debut item at the ripe old age of 37?

Granted that Woodley would need more than a friendly goal against Guyana to write himself into Soca Warriors folklore, but it does make for an excellent trivia question in several categories.

Trinidad and Tobago forward Kevon Woodley (left) drives a shot past Guyana defender Jeremy Garrett during friendly international action at the Hasely Crawford Stadium on 13 May 2024.
Woodley got an international goal on debut in T&T’s 2-0 win over Guyana.
Photo: Daniel Prentice/ Wired868

Trinidad and Tobago’s other goal came from another rookie: 22-year-old Point Fortin Civic attacker Ezekiel Kesar, who was previously capped at national youth level.

There might have been a memorable maiden goal for a third debutante: 17-year-old San Juan North Secondary student Lindell Sween. In fact, there should have been.

But Sween, played clear of the opposing defence, inexplicably paused as he sought to shift the ball to his favoured left foot—and, as fast as it came, the opportunity was gone.

There were precious few takeaways from the game otherwise, although both coaches lauded the exercise for allowing them to blood new talent.

Trinidad and Tobago flanker Ezekiel Kesar (second from left) considers a pass to teammate Kevon Woodley (far right) during friendly international action at the Hasely Crawford Stadium on 13 May 2024.
Photo: Daniel Prentice/ Wired868

Ironically, the three players that Guyana coach Jamaal Shabazz identified as his stand-outs on the night—midfielder Daniel Wilson, defender Colin Nelson and attacker Kelsey Benjamin—have 48, 31 and 19 caps respectively, already under their belts.

(Although it is worth noting that Benjamin’s strike partner, Stephen McDonald, also made his international bow against Trinidad and Tobago, and the Guyana Defence Force forward held his own against two-time World Youth Cup defender Robert Primus.)

At the other end, Eve credited his midfield trio of Kevon Goddard, David “Fingers” Daniel and Matthew Woo Ling for “playing really well” and helping Trinidad and Tobago to play expansively on the night.

Trinidad and Tobago midfielder Matthew Woo Ling (foreground) looks to pass for a teammate while Guyana midfielder Darron Niles tries to stay close during friendly international action at the Hasely Crawford Stadium on 13 May 2024.
Photo: Daniel Prentice/ Wired868

“The ball retainance (sic) was really good in the first half,” said Eve. “We moved the ball around, we changed sides, we penetrated, we created opportunities, we scored two good goals.

“We probably should have scored a couple more…”

However, in defensive transition, the “Golden Jaguars” got into position with the timing and agility of a drunk trying to find his car keys. And Woo Ling and Daniel were able to play forward into space far too easily.

Trinidad and Tobago attacker Isaiah Lee (right) tries to escape the attentions of Guyana defender Curtez Kellman during friendly international action at the Hasely Crawford Stadium on 13 May 2024.
Photo: Daniel Prentice/ Wired868

Surely, they would not have been that comfortable against even a third-string Jamaica team.

That is not to say that Guyana played badly, though. They tried to get on the ball and play, while McDonald’s hold-up play and Benjamin’s inventiveness certainly added to the contest.

But the game lacked the hammer and tongs of a proper international fixture.

Guyana forward Stephen McDonald (left) tries to put pressure on Trinidad and Tobago left back Ross Russell during friendly international action at the Hasely Crawford Stadium on 13 May 2024.
Photo: Daniel Prentice/ Wired868

“The boys did really, really well in the first half,” said Eve, who was happy to point to the positives. “We moved the ball around, we penetrated, we created opportunities. We scored two good goals…”

Guyana midfielder Ryan Hackett fired a half-chance into the side netting in the 27th minute, after Trinidad and Tobago goalkeeper Christopher failed to get distance on his attempted punch clearance from opposing defender Quincy Adams off a corner kick.

A minute later, Trinidad and Tobago were ahead, as Daniel played a delicious through pass clean through the opposing defence for Kesar to tap home.

Trinidad and Tobago attacker Ezekiel Kesar (centre) passes for a teammate during friendly international action against Guyana at the Hasely Crawford Stadium on 13 May 2024.
Photo: Daniel Prentice/ Wired868

And Kesar, nondescript until that point, got an assist too in the 38th minute—as he played in Woodley at the apex of another crisp exchange of passes, which the veteran striker rounded off with a neat finish and a Harry Kane-esque celebration.

However, a mix-up between Primus and Goddard gifted Benjamin a scarcely deserved item in the 48th minute and Trinidad and Tobago never quite regained their ascendancy.

“I think in the second half, we dominated and we had our chances,” said Shabazz. “Of course, they had their chances. I think it was pretty even in the second half. I think in the first half, Trinidad and Tobago were pretty superior to us.”

Trinidad and Tobago goalkeeper Christopher Biggette (background) dives at the feet of Guyana attacker Kelsey Benjamin (right) during friendly international action at the Hasely Crawford Stadium on 13 May 2024.
Photo: Daniel Prentice/ Wired868

Eve blamed the turnaround after the break was down to their substitutions.

“In the second half, [our momentum] just went to pieces,” he said.

But he insisted that Guyana’s supposed revival was overstated.

Trinidad and Tobago defender Sheldon Bateau stands on the ball during friendly international action against Guyana at the Hasely Crawford Stadium on 13 May 2024.
Photo: Daniel Prentice/ Wired868

“I don’t think they had any real chances,” said Eve, “nothing major to make us worried.”

The Trinidad and Tobago coach said he expected more from Sween, who is in his second TTPFL Tier One season—this time, with Caledonia AIA—and 19-year-old Police FC attacker Josiah Wilson.

The night belonged to a man who was old enough to be their fathers.

Trinidad and Tobago forward Kevon Woodley (right) gives Guyana defenders Quincy Adams (#19) and Amos Ramsay the slip during friendly international action at the Hasely Crawford Stadium on 13 May 2024.
Photo: Daniel Prentice/ Wired868

“What [Woodley] did in the first 45 minutes was exactly what we expected of him,” said Eve. “He held up the ball, he linked the play well. He got his goal, and probably with his runs off the ball he deserved a little bit more.

“[…] Sometimes the guys turned away from him (when he was in good offensive positions).”

Might Woodley keep his place in the Trinidad and Tobago squad for the World Cup qualifying campaign?

Trinidad and Tobago forward Kevon Woodley (right) sizes up Guyana defender Curtez Kellman during friendly international action at the Hasely Crawford Stadium on 13 May 2024.
Photo: Daniel Prentice/ Wired868

As far as physically-imposing centre forwards go, Eve has so far used Malcolm Shaw (seven caps, one goal from the penalty spot), Justin Obikwu (two caps, no goals) and Brent Sam (one cap, no goals). (Only caps under Eve noted in brackets.)

Meaningless friendly? Try telling that to Mrs Woodley and his vocal cheering section in the covered stands.

Maybe the retired Beach Soccer stand-out is, against all odds, just getting started.

(Squads)

Trinidad and Tobago (4-3-3): 1.Christopher Biggette (GK) (21.Adrian Foncette [GK] 46), 2.Liam Burns, 4.Sheldon Bateau (captain), 12.Robert Primus, 3.Ross Russell Jr; 13.Daniel David (24.Simeon Bailey 76), 18.Kevon Goddard, 16.Matthew Woo Ling (20.Adriel George 76); 9.Ezekiel Kesar (15.Lindell Sween 67), 23.Kevon Woodley (11.Josiah Wilson 67),7.Isaiah Lee (19.Brent Sam 82).

Unused substitutes: 5.Josiah Trimmingham, 6.Andre Raymond, 14.Jabari Mitchell, 17.Justin Garcia.

Coach: Angus Eve

Guyana (3-5-2): 1.Jamine Cumberbatch (GK); 14.Curtez Kellman, 19.Quincy Adams (16.Nicholai Andrews 70), 4.Jeremy Garrett (21.Colin Nelson 42); 2.Leo-Orion Lovell, 6.Darron Niles (23.Simeon Moore 70), 15.Ryan Hackett (8.Chris Macey 63), 17.Daniel Wilson (captain), 20.Amos Ramsay (5.Terique Mohammed 46); 10.Stephen McDonald (7.Marcus Tudor 54), 11.Kelsey Benjamin (9.Anthony Smith 70).

Unused substitutes: 18.Simon Emanuel (GK), 22.Amari Thompson (GK), 3.Kevin Layne, 12.Solomon Austin, 13.Bevan Baker.

Coach: Jamaal Shabazz

Referee: Kwinsi Williams

Trinidad and Tobago midfielder Kevon Goddard (left) attempts a lofted pass during friendly international action against Guyana at the Hasely Crawford Stadium on 13 May 2024.
Photo: Daniel Prentice/ Wired868

Friendly international

(13 May 2024)

Trinidad and Tobago 2 (Ezekiel Kesar 28, Kevon Woodley 38), Guyana 1 (Kelsey Benjamin 47) at Hasely Crawford Stadium.

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