Trinidad and Tobago will be heading to the United States on Thursday morning on the back off a 0-0 draw with Japan at the Toyota Stadium in Aichi. It was a result that would leave Dennis Lawrence and his men with a lot to feel good about as they held their nerves as they frustrated the hosts before 38,000 odd fans in an exercise which both countries used to prepare for upcoming international competitions. T&T opens its 2019 Gold Cup account on June 18th against Panama while Japan will contest the Copa America where they will field a largely under 23 team before commencing its 2022 Qatar World Cup qualifiers in September.
Japan showed a lot of energy in attack but couldn’t breakdown a stubborn T&T defence as goalkeeper Marvin Phillip pulled off a number of good stops to deny the hosts who piled on the pressure in the second half.
Portimonense midfielder Shoya Nakajima sniped away at the goal, while FC Groningen midfielder Ritsu Doan wreaked havoc up the middle, often in concert with Marseille defender Hiroki Sakai coming up the right flank.
Alvin Jones had T&T’s best first half attempt when his free kick was saved by the Japanese custodian.
In the 24th minute, a Doan through pass unleashed Sakai down the right. Werder Bremen forward Yuya Osako found space in front of Phillip’s goal and stung the ‘keeper’s hands after a well-timed cross from Sakai.
That ushered in nearly 20 minutes of non-stop pressure from the Japanese that included a Nakajima missile blocked by Phillip, and a free kick from the Japanese midfielder that came off the bar.
Starved of the ball while his teammates were under pressure, T&T forward Levi Garcia had the best chance of the first half but was blocked by Japan’s Daniel Schmidt. The American-born Vegalta Sendai goalkeeper then stopped a point-blank header by Kevan George off the ensuing corner. Garcia also played one in from the right which just beat a lunging Nathan Lewis inside the box.
Phillip was once more put to the test in a 30-second rush in that saw him deflect an 85th-minute strike from Japan captain Gaku Shibasaki, tip away a roller seconds later and then stop a shot from Sho Genji. Lawrence gave 18-year-old Judah Garcia a run out late in the second half as T&T continued to press on. Jones was forced to leave the field with a strained hamstring but is expected to be ready for the Gold Cup.
The match had earlier kicked off in style both on and off the field as the stadium lights were lowered prior to the teams’ entrance onto the pitch with only the lights of the fans’ mobile phones and the digital screen illuminating the venue along followed by an eight second countdown before the teams came out. There was also small Japanese contingent of around thirty persons playing steel pan and outfitted in carnival wear in the stands.
Lawrence later credited his team for a gutsy performance.
“In terms of the game obviously we had to dig deep because we played an exceptional team in Japan. They moved the ball well. They tried to get the ball in wide areas, create the width and get a lot of crosses in which we expected and we had to defend. On the other side I was really, really proud of my boys tonight, Lawrence said.
“It was a long journey to get here. The boys did us proud and it was really the type of test we needed going into competition like the Gold Cup. I was really pleased for the boys. I couldn’t name one particular player because I thought they all stood up to be counted. Obviously in the end Japan really pushed us back and our ‘keeper had to pull off some incredible saves but that is what he’s there for ,” Lawrence added.
Goalkeeper Phillip also spoke about the result and performance on the night.
“We knew the game would have been tough. We tried to go out there and stick to the game plan. During the game I had to make a couple saves and I came up big for the team on the night. That’s a goalkeeper’s job. I had been putting in a lot of work since we started the training camp. All of this didn’t come by guess. It came by putting in a lot of work with the goalkeeper coach Ross Russell,” Phillip said.
The T&T goalkeeper mentioned that Lawrence’s ability to prepare his team on what to expect from the opponent has been critical.
“Right now the team under good guidance under the coach. We understand what he wants. It’s jus for us to go out there and execute and turn the 1-0 losses we’ve had in the last couple games into positive results going into the Gold Cup. I knew I needed to remain solid for the closing minutes of the match because the guys were getting tired also because a few of them having been active for a while,” he said
“We have a few things to work on still and to fine tune but the next week will be important and should be really good for us going into the opener against Panama.”
Trinidad and Tobago : 1.Marvin Phillip (GK); 12.Carlyle Mitchell (15.Curtis Gonzales 89), 5.Daneil Cyrus , 3.Mekeil Williams; 19.Kevan George,16.Alvin Jones (14.Akeem Humphrey, 67′), 23.Leston Paul; 13.Nathan Lewis (6.Duane Muckette 78′),11.Levi Garcia (18.Lester Peltier 71). 8.Khaleem Hyland (captain) (4.Neveal Hackshaw 84′), 20.Jomal Williams (2.Judah Garcia 89);
Unused substitutes: 22.Adrian Foncette (GK); 9.Shahdon Winchester.
Head Coach: Dennis Lawrence
Japan 23.Daniel Schmidt (GK); 22.Shinnosuke Hatanaka, 3.Gen Shoji, 16.Takehiro Tomiyasu; 19.Hiroki Sakai (2.Sei Muroya 61′), 24.Hidemasa Morita (25.Yuki Kobayashi 61′), 7.Gaku Shibasaki (captain), 5.Yuto Nagatomo (8.Genki Haraguchi 79′); 11.Shoya Nakajima (9.Takumi Minamino 71′),21.Ritsu Doan (14.Junya Ito 21), 15.Yuya Osako,
Unused substitutes: 12.Shuichi Gonda (GK), 28.Keisuke Osako (GK), 4.Ryosuke Yamanaka, 6.Kento Hashimoto, 10.Shinji Kagawa, 13.Kensuke Nagai, 20.Tomoake Makino.
Head Coach: Hajime Moriyasu