Trinidad and Tobago’s Senior Men’s Team produced one of its best ever efforts in World Cup Qualifying action in Costa Rica on Tuesday night but were left without at least point to show as Francisco Calvo and Bryan Ruiz’s first half goals gave the hosts a 2-1 victory at the National Stadium in San Jose.
A firm left foot strike by Minnesota United’s Kevin Molino beat Real Madrid custodian Keylor Navas to draw T&T level on 35 minutes as the visitors, which lost captain Kenwyne Jones to a hamstring injury in the pre-game warm up, matched their opponents stride for stride before a partizan Costa Rican crowd of just under 35,000.
T&T’s best result in World Cup qualifying was in 1985, a 1-1 draw, followed by a 3-0 loss in 2001, 2-0 in 2005 and 4-0 in 2009. Despite the loss, T&T remains in the running for a place at the 2018 World Cup in Russia. Panama gave up two points at home tonight with a 2-2 draw with Honduras. The stage is now set for T&T to host Honduras on September 1st followed by a clash with Panama in Panama City on September 5th. Six points from those two games followed by a win at home to the US in the final group encounter on October 10th. T&T will be away to Mexico on October 6th and a result there too would be a massive boost.
On Tuesday night, T&T found themselves trailing inside the first minute when a cheaply conceded right side corner led to Calvo arriving unmarked in the six yard box to head past Jan Michael Williams on his near post from a Joel Campbell right side corner.
T&T were however not shaken by the early setback and caused the Costa Ricans to take note of their intent with some decent possessional football and organised play to keep themselves right in the game.
Jamille Boatswain, who came in late as Jones’ replacement should have pulled T&T level as he latched onto a ball after Arcia’s mishit, and had Navas scampering but couldn’t get his shot off on time, allowing the Madrid man to make the first block, then a second block on Arcia’s follow up and another Botswain attempt. There were screams of scare from the Costa Rican fans and then loud cheers as the ball went to safety.
Joevin Jones also had a well taken free kick bringing out the best out of Navas, as he went full stretch to his left to push the ball out on the right post on 28 minutes. Soon after Hashim Arcia went close with an effort from a Nathan Lewis pass but Navas was up to the task.
T&T clawed one back through Kevin Molino in the 35th minute, as the Minnesota United player fired home a Joevin Jones pass from just outside Costa Rica’s penalty area.
Ruiz put the Ticos back in front just before the break for good, curling a 12-yard shot past Michael Williams with the outside of his left foot to make it 2-1.
The second half saw Khaleem Hyland enter the T&T line up and Dennis Lawrence’s men took on the match with a degree of authority and composure that was definitely impressive.
T&T should have had a penalty in the 51st minute when Boatswain was blatantly had his shirt tugged by defender Michael Umana as he made a diagonal run to meet a Daneil Cyrus pass, falling to the turf inside the penalty box. Cuban referee Yadel Martinez waved play on and there was no reaction from his assistant on the near side. Lawrence and the rest of the T&T camp was left in disbelief. The Costa Rican press correspondents in the media tribune were also surprised, some plainly calling “Penal” as the play occurred.
Boatswain had another shot saved by Navas’ legs and Molino saw one go into the side netting as T&T pressed for an equaliser but the Costa Ricans desperately saw out the remaining minutes with a couple missed opportunities as well.
In the other match on the night, Roman Torres scored in the 90th minute as Panama rallied for a 2-2 draw with Honduras.
Mexico leads the final round of qualifying in the North and Central American and Caribbean region with 14 points, followed by Costa Rica with 11 and the United States (eight), Panama (seven), Honduras (five) and Trinidad and Tobago (three).
Trinidad and Tobago : 21.Jan-Michael Williams (GK) (captain); 2.Aubrey David, 5.Daneil Cyrus, 4.Sheldon Bateau, 17.Mekeil Williams (12.Shahdon Winchester 89); 15.Curtis Gonzales; 7.Nathan Lewis, 18.Hashim Arcia (8.Khaleem Hyland 46), 10.Kevin Molino, 3.Joevin Jones (11.Carlos Edwards 77); 20.Jamille Boatswain.
Unused substitutes: 1.Marvin Phillip (GK), 22.Adrian Foncette (GK), 6.Radanfah Abu Bakr, 13.Hughtun Hector, 14.Andre Boucaud, 16.Alvin Jones, 19.Kevan George, 23.Leston Paul
Coach: Dennis Lawrence
Costa Rica : 1.Keylor Navas (GK); 19.Kendall Waston (4.Michael Umaña 22), 2.Johnny Acosta, 15.Francisco Calvo; 16.Christian Gamboa, 5.Celso Borges, 8.Bryan Oviedo; 12.Joel Campbell, 11.Johan Venegas, 10.Bryan Ruiz (captain); 21.Marcos Ureña (13.Rodney Wallace 81).
Unused substitutes: 18.Patrick Pemberton (GK), 23.Leonel Moreira (GK), 3.Kenner Gutierrez, 6.Jose Salvatierra, 7.Daniel Colindres, 9.Ariel Rodriguez, 14.Randall Azofeifa, 17.Yeltsin Tejada, 20.David Guzman, 22.Ronald Matarrita,
Coach: Oscar Ramirez
Referee – Yadel Martinez (Cuba)
Assistant 1- Leonardo Sanchez (Cuba)
Assistant 2 -Hermenerito Leal (Guatemala)
Fourth Official – Mario Escobar (Guatemala)
Match Commissioner – Enrique Ramirez