An opening goal by Mickey Trotman failed to save Trinidad and Tobago's senior footballers from a 2-1 defeat to Costa Rica in a friendly international at the Ricardo Saprissa Stadium on Wednesday night.
Following 1-0 and 2-1 victories over T&T in the 1998 World Cup Qualifying campaign and then a 4-0 whipping in 1998, the Central Americans maintained their impressive record over the Calypso boys through goals by Wilmer Lopez in the 59th minute and a winner by newcomer Jafet Soto eleven minutes from full time.
Trotman's 40th minute item gave T&T a 1-0 lead at half time. Joe Public's Arnold Dwarika was the chief instigator cutting a path through the Costa Rican defence for Trotman to shoot home. Veteran Costa Rican Hernan Medford was largely responsible for his team's equaliser when he dribbled his way into a good position inside the 18-yard box before neatly finding Lopez who left Ross Russell stranded in goal.
Reports from Costa Rica indicated that the homesters struggled against the quick pace of T&T in the opening half but were able to get their game together in the second period. "We always know Trinidad and Tobago to be difficult opponents and this is a good victory for us" Medford said after.
T&T's last victory was a 4-3 defeat of Colombia last September led by a Stern John hattrick. But John was not on show on Wednesday and will be missing in action for the next five months after injuring a posterior cruciate ligament on the weekend.
T&T were without a few players expected to play a key role in the Gold Cup next month including Hibernian midfielder Russell Latapy, Manchester United's Dwight Yorke, Raith Rovers defender Marvin Andrews, English born players Ronnie Mauge (Bristol Rovers), Ian Cox (Bournemouth) and former skipper David Nakhid.
National coach Bertille St Clair used the affair to have a final look at the players before naming his final Gold Cup squad. Midfielder Brent Rahim made his first starting appearance for the senior squad.
T&T line-up :
Ross Russell, Derek King, Shurland David, Stokely Mason, Ansil Elcock , Brent Rahim , Mickey Trotman (Kerwyn Jemmot 85th), Anthony Rougier, Jerron Nixon (Hector Sam 72nd) Arnold Dwarika, Clint Marcelle (Travis Mulraine 62nd).
By IRVING WARD (Courtesy Trinidad Express)
AFTER posting a nine-game unbeaten streak in 1999, Trinidad and Tobago are yet to find their winning form this year.
On Wednesday night, the men in red, white and black lost their second game in just over a week when they were downed 2-1 by Costa Rica at the Ricardo Saprissa Stadium in San José.
That means that Bertille St Clair's side have now lost three of their last four games.
The slide began when they lost their final game of 1999 to Honduras 2-0. Since then their best result was a goalless draw with Canada earlier this month although their 1-0 loss to Morocco last week was reported as their best performance of the year.
On Wednesday, St Clair's side took the early lead in the game and might have earned a draw had the home side not benefited from a dubious call by the match officials.
Another consolation for the defeated squad was the fine showing of veteran T&T goalkeeper Ross Russell.
The veteran T&T goalkeeper staked a claim for a spot on the squad for the forthcoming Football Confederation Gold Cup series with a brilliant game.
Russell was the difference between the two teams in the first half as Costa Rica, pushing forward in numbers, had much the better of the exchanges.
The Defence Force custodian's best save of the half came in the 20th minute when he snuffed out a bullet from Hernan Medford. A moment later, with Russell beaten, the T&T defence also contributed to keeping the scoreline blank by clearing a shot off the line.
The Central Americans' commitment to out-and-out attack left holes in their defence. And in the 40th minute, T&T took advantage when Arnold Dwarika broke exploited an opening a hole at the back to deliver a pinpoint accurate pass on to the foot of Mickey Trotman.
The United States-based striker, now one of the key contenders to fill the vacancy created by the injury England-based striker Stern John, controlled the ball quickly before calmly slotting past goalkeeper Hermidio Barrantes.
The visitors went in 1-0 up at the interval but Costa Rican coach Marvín Rodríguez re-organised his team for the second half, plugging up the holes.
He sent Wílmer López forward to serve the speedy Hernán Medford and Jafet Soto with passes up front. Wálter Centeno took López's place at the back to cover the open spaces that had haunted them in the first half.
The move paid dividends after only 10 minutes. Medford weaved his way through the T&T defence before setting up an offside Lopez.
As the defence checked, perhaps expecting to hear a whistle, López converted. To the chagrin of the surprised visitors, the referee pointed to the centre spot.
The goal gave the home side new impetus and they continued to pour forward in attack. It finally tilted the balance of the game in their favour.
Over and over, they peppered Russell's goal with powerful shots but the agile custodian showed himself more than equal to the task. But even he could do nothing when, in the 79th minute, Medford got up to his tricks again.
Weaving his way once more through the T&T defence, he found Soto unmarked in front of goal and the striker had little to do to make the score 2-1.
T&T's next assignment is expected to be another friendly against Peru a matter of days before the departure for the Gold Cup next week.
Costa Rica 2 (Wilmer Lopez 55th, Jafet Soto 79th) v T&T 1 (Mickey Trotman 40th)