Trinidad and Tobago secured its first three points with a deserving 1-0 victory over Panama at the Hasely Crawford Stadium in CONCACAF Final World Cup qualifying on Friday night.
A 37th minute goal by Minnesota United forward Kevin Molino did the job for the hosts before the home fans in Port of Spain.
Losers of their first two matches in the six-team final round home-and-away qualifiers to Costa Rica (0-2) and Honduras (1-3), T&T took to the field under the guidance of Dennis Lawrence in search of a first win.
And from early on, the hosts, skippered by striker Kenwyne Jones, asserted themselves against the visitors, just as coach Lawrence hoped.
Early on it was all one-way traffic with Seattle Sounders utility player Joevin Jones firing a free-kick over bar from just outside the 18-yard box in the fourth minute, while nine minutes later, the Carenage-born danger man had Panama goalkeeper Jaime Penedo Cano at full stretch to tip over a scorching effort from a left sided shot that looked destined to sneak in the underside of the crossbar.
Panama managed to withstand the early pressure from T&T and on the half-hour mark created its best chance with striker Abdiel Arroyo heading wide of the target after being left unmarked in the Soca Warriors’ 18-yard box.
Urged on by coach Lawrence from the sidelines, Central defender Daniel Cyrus forced the ball up the centre of the field to Molino, who held off two challenges and from the edge of the 18-yard box, fired a low right-footed shot that nestled into the bottom right hand corner of the goal past Cano.
On the stroke of half-time Panama, who, like T&T, held the ball well in possession, had a chance to get on even terms from a free-kick. However, goalkeeper Jan-Michael Williams, who up to that point was much busier with back passes from his team-mates, was equal to the task and parried away right-footed shot from Edgar Yoel Barcenas, with veteran right back Carlos Edwards on spot to head away the rebound for a corner.
The Panamanians started the second half in much brighter fashion and pinned T&T back for a few minutes, but the closest they came to a goal was a few wild flashes across the T&T penalty area which were easily dealt with.
At the other end, the lively Cordell Cato created a great chance for T&T to double its advantage in the 62nd, but after running almost 40 yards with the ball and finding a surging Molino, he could only fire into the body of Cano low down.
Four minutes later, Jones outran Panama captain and Last stopper Felipe Baloy.
However, he dragged a left-footed shot into the side netting. But that effort did not sum up a workman-like performance from the big man.
In the end, Molino’s strike was enough to secure T&T’s first three points in the final round on the road to Russia 2018, and a sure confidence booster ahead of Tuesday’s match against Mexico at the same venue from 7 pm, where coach Lawrence will look to add to his debut World Cup qualifying win.
CONCACAF REPLAYED – Mexico sprang to the top of CONCACAF’s final Hexagonal round of qualifying for the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia™ with an impressive win over Costa Rica at the Estadio Azteca.
Trinidad and Tobago and USA joined El Tri in an upward trajectory with a pair of much-needed victories to earn their first points of the round. FIFA.com takes a closer look at all the action from a spicy Friday night in the CONCACAF zone.
Mexico 2-0 Costa Rica
Mexico moved to the top of the table with a comprehensive 2-0 win over a tough Costa Rica outfit that started the day in first place. Javier Chicharito Hernandez opened the scoring early with a brave chip over the onrushing Keylor Navas to send the crowd at the Azteca into hysterics.
Nestor Araujo then made it 2-0 just before the half with a powerful header that barely snuck over the line. With a host of influential players out through injury, including Jesus Tecatito Corona and Andres Guardado, Juan Carlos Osorio’s Mexicans never missed a beat and cruised through the second half to seal the win and a clean sheet.
USA gave Bruce Arena the perfect start to his second term as coach with a demolition of Honduras in Northern California. Sebastian Lletget opened the scoring with a tap-in to an open goal early on. Captain Michael Bradley doubled the lead near the half-hour mark as the Americans were in an attacking mood.
By the time Clint Dempsey, back in action after a year out with an irregular heartbeat, slammed home the first of his three goals on the night, the game was well and truly beyond the Hondurans. It was no surprise that the contest finished 6-0 to the resurgent Stars and Stripes, who are still tied for last-place, but have reason for serious optimism.
Trinidad and Tobago earned their first points of the round with a 1-0 win over Panama at home in Port of Spain. Kevin Molino made the difference on the night, his 37th-minute right-footer from 25 yards squirreling past Jaime Penedo in the Panamanian net to see the lone remaining Caribbean side with reason for confidence of their own.
46 – The number of international goals scored by Mexican marksman Javier Chicharito Hernandez. His elegant chip in the win over Costa Rica saw him become El Tri’s joint all-time top-scorer.
Did you know?
New coach Dennis Lawrence knows what it takes to get a Trinidad and Tobago team to the World Cup finals. He scored the winning goal in an intercontinental play-off with Bahrain in 2005 to see the Soca Warriors into their first and only world finals (Germany 2006). Fans of the colourful and athletic islanders will be hoping the former captain, in his first head-coaching gig, can do the same from the touchline.
What they said
“Congratulations Chicharito! When will you score another and break my record? I’m sure you’ll get 20 more at least.” Mexican legend Jared Borgetti, known as the Desert Fox in his playing days, was gracious about Chicharito drawing level with him as El Tri’s all-time top-scorer.
Results (Round Five, Matchday 3)
Trinidad and Tobago 1-0 Panama
Mexico 2-0 Costa Rica
USA 6-0 Honduras
Up Next (Round Five, Matchday 4)
Trinidad and Tobago-Mexico