Trinidad and Tobago had to settle for a point after conceding two second half goals in a 2-2 draw with Martinique in CONCACAF Nations League qualifying at the Hasely Crawford Stadium on Monday night.
Playing before 2000 fans, T&T were purposeful and looked a driven side in the first half. Minnesota United midfielder Kevin Molino drilled a right footer home on 17 minutes to beat goalkeeper Loic Chauvet.
The halftime whistle was still ringing in fans’ ears when Ryan Telfer doubled the lead. The forward, who debuted for Trinidad and Tobago last week, got the last touch on the ball in a goal-line scramble.
But Martinique fought back at the hour mark, with a corner kick deflecting off Trinidad and Tobago’s Daniel Carr to cut the deficit in half.
And then Jordy Delem was there in the 80th minute to knock in a ball from a set piece that had taken a deflection and sat for the taking in the box.
The home side surged forward, looking to retake the lead, but Chauvet’s double save in the 88th minute to efforts by Leston Paul and Molino helped earn Les Matinino the point.
T&T faces Honduras in their next Nations League clash at home on October 10 and will play a friendly away to Mexico in Toluca on October 2.
Asked what went wrong for T&T in the second half, head coach Dennis Lawrence replied in the post match press conference, “We (couldn’t) defend set pieces. It’s a problem we identified in the first game. We didn’t have enough people in the box ready to put their head on it and take a cut. It’s that simple.”
“We had it in the palms of our hands, and we gave it away all because we couldn’t defend set pieces the way we were meant to defend set pieces. We didn’t have people in the box ready to put their head on it and take a cut to defend the corners.
“We, in the past, would select squads based on performances for your football club. We have got to a stage now where we are selecting squads based on players just playing football,” he added.
“The past is the past and you have to work on the future but when you look on what we used to call on before, it’s not on the same. We are calling on a different level of players.
“So now the target for a lot of these players is you need to be selected based on your performance and not just playing.”
Lawrence did give credit to Canadian-based forward Telfer who scored his maiden goal for T&T.
“I have to give credit to Ryan Telfer. Because when you look at him, he is performing for his club and he comes and performs for Trinidad and Tobago and I hope he continues,” said Lawrence. “And I hope the boys can learn from his example because he has been pristine as a professional since he has been with us and I hope it can rub off on some of the players for them to understand what professionalism is all about.”
Martinique coach Mario Bocaly acknowledged that his team relied a lot on set-pieces against the hosts
“We worked on everything on TT,” Bocaly said. “We saw (their) quality but we saw (their) faults. We (scored on set-pieces) three times during the two games.”
Monday’s result meant that T&T are yet to win an international match since a 2-0 victory over the United Arab Emirates on September 6, 2018, in Girona, Spain. Since then, TT have drawn five games and lost seven.
Questioned about the win-less run, Lawrence responded, “I can speak about (Monday) night. We scored two goals and we couldn’t keep a clean sheet. We couldn’t defend the two-goal lead that we had.
“If you look at the overall picture, before we couldn’t score and we conceded, now we could score and we’re still conceding. We need to go back to the drawing board in terms of trying to ensure that we can keep clean sheets. We need to get set and look forward to October.”
Honduras, the other team in this three-team Group C, will meet T&T here on October 10 and 13 in Honduras. Lawrence was also asked if there will be changes to the T&T squad before the Honduras matches.
“Before you talk about changes, you need to have options. We need to find the options first, then start thinking about changes. There are a couple (players) that we’re working on, to bring in to represent T&T.
“I’m hoping that, between now and October, that their documents would come into play so we can put some more pressure on the boys that are in the squad. I think we need competition.”
Bocaly was pleased with his team’s display on Monday.
“I’m proud of my players because it was so difficult (in) the beginning of the game because Trinidad were more solid than they were on Friday. They played really well in the first half. To get two goals is very good for Martinique.”
Martinique is not a member of FIFA and ineligible to enter any the FIFA World Cup or FIFA-organised competition, since it is an overseas department of France.