Qualifying hopes ends in Panama City

Trinidad and Tobago’s World Cup Russia 2018 aspirations came to an end on Tuesday night in Panama City as they went down 3-0 to Panama at the Estadio Rommel Fernandes.

Playing before just under 20,000 fans, Panama got goals from Gabriel Torres in the 39th, an own goal by Carlyle Mitchell in the 57th and a third item from Abdiel Arroyo in the 83rd minute.

Head Coach Dennis Lawrence kept four players in his starting team from Friday’s 2-1 loss at home to Honduras with Kevin Molino, Joevin Jones, Kevan George and defender Sheldon Bateau, who wore the captain’s armband retaining their places.

T&T had a positive start to proceedings, once again getting the first real try on goal with Willis Plaza driving an effort wide in the early stages of the game. Panama struggled to settle as T&T looked much more purposeful than they did in the early parts of last Friday’s encounter and managed to keep Panama from causing much problems in their penalty area.

But Panama would strike first after a T&T right side corner was cleared and Torres outfoxed George and Curtis Gonzales with a run from just inside Panama’s half of the field which he completed by clinically hitting past a hapless Marvin Phillip in goal to spark wild celebrations among the home fans.

T&T did not allow Panama to take complete control though and a Nathan Lewis effort in the 49th minute forced goalkeeper Jose Calderon to save low down. But fortune didn’t favour Lawrence’s men as just as it appeared that the visitors would make a fight of it, defender Carlyle Mitchell misguided an intended headed clearance into his own goal from a Alberto Quintero right side cross.

A key moment in the game came in the 70th minute when a low shot by substitute Khaleem Hyland was not held cleanly by Calder, rebounding into Plaza’s path but the striker somehow manage to clip the ball onto the crossbar on its way out from inside the six-yard box.

The T&T Starting team vs Panama. Photo at top shows a dejected Kevin Molino leaving the field after the match./TTFA Media

Arroyo completed the win with Panama’s third goal seven minutes from full time.

Panama’s win pushed them to third place and dropped the United States into fourth place in the World Cup qualifying standings and set the stage for a massive match between the Panamanians and Americans on Oct. 6 at Orlando City Stadium.

If the Americans win that game, they then have to must another victory over T&T on October 10th. A draw in the last game could also do the trick for the US depending on the outcome of Panama’s final match Oct. 10 at home against Costa Rica.

A Panama victory in Orlando would clinch the third spot and send the Americans scrambling for fourth place. A U.S.-Panama draw would leave the race very much up in the air.

So no matter what happens October 6th against Panama the U.S. fate will be settled in T&T in the final game.

Five minutes from securing the third spot Tuesday, Honduras is now fifth and in need of points in remaining matches at Costa Rica and home vs. Mexico.

Trinidad and Tobago:  1.Marvin Phillip (GK); 16.Nathan Lewis, 4.Sheldon Bateau (captain), 12.Carlyle Mitchell, 6.Radanfah Abu Bakr, 17.Mekeil Williams; 10.Kevin Molino, 19.Kevan George (8.Khaleem Hyland 50), 15.Curtis Gonzales, 3.Joevin Jones (7.Cordell Cato 62); 9.Willis Plaza (11.Tyrone Charles 76).

Subs not Used – 21.Jan-Michael Williams (GK), 22.Adrian Foncette (GK), 2.Aubrey David, 5.Daneil Cyrus, 13.Kevon Villaroel, 18.Triston Hodge, 20.Jamille Boatswain, 23.Leston Paul.

Head Coach: Dennis Lawrence

Panama – 12.José Calderón (GK); 2.Michael Murillo, 4.Fidel Escobar, 5.Román Torres (captain) (23.Felipe Baloy 80), 17.Luis Ovalle; 6.Gabriel Gómez (22.Abdiel Arroyo 72), 20.Anibal Godoy; 19.Alberto Quintero (11.Armando Cooper 82), 9.Gabriel Torres, 8.Édgar Yoel Bárcenas; 7.Blas Pérez.

Subs not Used 1.Alex Rodriguez (GK), 3.Roberto Chen, 10.Ricardo Buitrago, 13.Adolfo Machado, 15.Eric Davis, 16.Jose Gonzales, 18.Luis Tejada, 21.Roberto Nurse.

Head Coach: Hernán Gómez

Referee: Henry Bejarano (Costa Rica)

Panama celebrates one of its goals.
A section of the Panama crowd on Tuesday night.

CONCACAF standings
1 Mexico 5-0-3, 18 points, +8 goal differential
2 Costa Rica 4-1-3, 15 points, +7
3 Panama 2-2-4, 10 points, +2
4 United States 2-3-3, nine points, +1
5 Honduras 2-3-3, nine points, -7
6 Trinidad and Tobago 1-7-0, three points, -11