Trinidad and Tobago Dutch-based starlet Levi Garcia was the “Good Friday” Savior for the “”Soca Warriors” as he came off the bench to notch a double to spur on T&T to a come from behind 3-2 victory over St Vincent and the Grenadines on Friday at the Arnos Vale Sporting Complex.
With the scores leveled at one apiece after Joevin Jones curled home a right sided corner in the 51st minute, head coach Stephen Hart threw Garcia into the attack and the AZ Alkmaar player delivered the goods on debut, making him the youngest player to score for T&T in World Cup qualifying action and on debut to boot. His goals came in the 71st and 81st minutes to push T&T to seven points from three matches in the CONCACAF semi-final round of 2018 World Cup qualification.
The win coupled with Guatemala’s 2-0 victory over the United States on Friday night left the “Warriors” atop the group with seven points ahead of Guatemala (six points) and USA (four). The win for Guatemala also meant that T&T must go for the win on Tuesday against St Vincent in order to stay ahead of the pack and look ahead to the closing two matches in September to seal their final round spot.
T&T were not fluent in the first half and struggled to settle on the hard surface which was not made any easier by the humid conditions. Orlando City’s Kevin Molino played his first full match for T&T since returning from injury and was busy for the most part although being unable to be a major threat to the homeside’s defence.
T&T could have found themselves ahead when Aubrey David stepped inside off the left flank and forced a brilliant stop from goalkeeper Lemus Christopher. Kenwyne Jones also went close when he ran onto to Khaleem Hyland’s threaded ball but his low effort was saved by Christopher. St Vincent also had a good attempt when Emerald George and Myron Samuel combined and almost punished T&T, only for a quickly advancing Phillip to force George’s shot wide.
The hosts got the go ahead goal a minute from half time when Phillip was adjudged to have brought down David Pitt inside the penalty box and Myron Samuel clinically converted the resulting kick.
Jones would tie the scores up with a the inswinging corner and T&T were not looking to surge ahead. Hart’s tactical substitution would pay off with both Garcia and midfielder Neveal Hackshaw being instrumental in T&T going ahead.
Jones would head one on for Garcia who picked up the ball and made his run goalwards, taking on defender Akeem Williams before blasting past Christopher.
St Vincent would find themselves back in the match when Jarrel McMaster, played a diagonal ball over on the left for Anderson who slipped the ball wide for Shandel Samuel to hit home from close range to make it 3-3.
But T&T went to Kingstown for three points and there would be no letting up. Hackshaw, a teammate of Garcia on the previous T&T Under 20 team, played a brilliant ball over the Vincentian defence and the 18-year-old Garcia latched on before hitting past Christopher for the winning goal. Soon after he had another chance but his volley went across the goal.
The three points on the road will play a big part in T&T’s quest to progress to the final round of six teams.
The T&T Team arrives home on a Caribbean Airlines charter on Saturday evening and will look ahead to Tuesday’s qualifier versus the same opponents at the Hasely Crawford Stadium from 7pm. Tickets will be on sale on Tuesday from 10am at the Hasely Crawford Stadium.
Trinidad and Tobago (4-2-3-1): 1.Marvin Phillip (GK); 5.Daneil Cyrus (16.Levi Garcia 62), 4.Sheldon Bateau, 18.Yohance Marshall, 2.Aubrey David; 8.Khaleem Hyland, 14.Andre Boucaud (6.Neveal Hackshaw, 80’); 13.Justin Hoyte, 10.Kevin Molino, 9.Kenwyne Jones (captain) (11.Willis Plaza ,90’). 3.Joevin Jones;
Unused substitutes: 24.Adrian Foncette (GK), 7.Hughtun Hector, 12.Sean De Silva, 17.Mekeil Williams, 19.Shahdon Winchester, 20.Trevin Caear, 23.Jomal Williams.
Head Coach: Stephen Hart
St Vincent & the Grenadines: 1.Lemus Christopher (GK); 14.Akeem Williams, 5.Shawn Benjamin, 3.Roy Richards (captain), 16.Jolanshoy McDowall, 4.Jarrel McMaster, 6.Shemol Trimmingham, 10.Oalex Anderson, 17.Emerald George (7.Kyle Edwards ,83’), 21.David Pitt (19.Shandel Samuel, 66’), 9.Myron Samuel.
Unused substitutes: 22.Kevan Henry (GK), 8.Darren Hamlett, 15.Kevin Francis, 20.Durwin Ross.
Head Coach: Cornelius Huggins
Referee: Jose Kellys (Panama)