Trinidad and Tobago kicked off their 2000 international football campaign with a scoreless draw with Canada at the Hasely Crawford Stadium, Mucurapo yesterday.
The majority of local fans would have preferred a victory but the performance of the Soca Warriors left coach Bertille St Clair, manager Richard Braithwaite and playmaker Russell Latapy a satisfied trio at the end.
Some 6,000 fans came especially to see Latapy and though he was off the field at half-time, they were given their fair share of wizardry from the Little Magician. An improved defensive display and the look of debutants, English-born midfielder Ronnie Mauge and young Brent Rahim also left the T&T officials smiling.
The home side took a while to settle against the Canadians who were not afraid to attack. After ten minutes, T&T's first real thrust came from a left-side corner from "Latas."
The ball was sent way out of the 18-yard box to an unmarked Angus Eve whose low effort forced goalkeeper Craig Forest to push out to his right. Two minutes later, a vibrant Eve skippering the team in the absence of an injured Anthony Rougier, received a pass from Latapy, before forcing Forest to save on his near post.
On 22 minutes, Canada had a goal ruled offside following some good work on the edge of the box by Paul Stalteri before David Xausa arrived offside to hit over the line.
Later Xausa tested Ince from near 20 yards but the reliable Crewe Alexandra 'keeper showed safe hands. Joe Public midfielder Stokely Mason replaced American based defender Chris Charles after 25 minutes and put on a solid display in an uncustomary role at the back.
Eve, Dwarika, FC Zurich front man Jerren Nixon and SSV ULM (Germany) striker Evans Wise were not disappointing but the latter three were replaced by Rahim, Mickey Trotman and Gary Glasgow, adding some sting to the T&T attack that had been lacking earlier.
Still the right finishing touches were missing. Substitute Rahim won cheers from the fans with some attractive footwork with good composure, also laying off the ball well on instances.
Latapy later expressed satisfaction with the T&T performance."Not a bad performance. It was a good result to start with. As long as you don't lose it's a good result. A great result is when you win. I haven't been back for quite some time but I was delighted with some of the things I saw. Obviously there is a lot some work to be done still."
"Several key players were missing but hopefully with time and hard work we'll gel well together. I was quite impressed with a lot of the players and their attitude on the whole and that was one of the positive things," said Latapy who plays for Hibernian in Scotland.
Canada coach Osieck commented: "I got a valuable impression of some of the players I saw. We tried to play some creative stuff and we did quite well and I think the Trinidad coach got the same thing that I did."
"We didn't lose and that's not a bad result. We can only go from strength to strength," were St Clair's words at the end.