IN their opening World Cup qualifier on Tuesday,
they managed six goals against the
Netherlands Antilles. But needing just one on Thursday versus Guatemala at the Centre
of Excellence, Trinidad and Tobago's Under-23s failed to find the back of the net on a
Playing in the second match of a doubleheader
at Macoya, captain Travis Mulraine and
his Olympic squad, hoping to qualify for a place at the Sydney Games in September
were held to a 0-0 draw by an undermanned Latin American outfit.
It was a result that assumed a new importance
in the light of the outcome of the earlier
game between Canada and tableproppers the Netherlands Antilles. At the end of it, a
60th minute strike by Canada's Paul Saltrier saw his side earn a 1-0 victory over the
Canada and T&T, who oppose each other at
the Hasely Crawford Stadium this
evening, are now even on four points from their two matches. However, the locals
remain atop the four-team table by virtue of their superior goal difference.
It is, however, not a situation with which
coach Anton Corneal will be happy since they
ought to have improved both their points standing and their goal difference against a
Guatemalan XI playing one short for 53 minutes.
Hector Sam, Brent Rahim and Jason Scotland,
the heroes of T&T's first game triumph,
all failed to find their scoring touch in this match. And, if the whole truth be told, the
chances that went abegging were few and far between.
On a soggy, slippery field, it was Sam who
should have opened his team's account in
the first half.
Defender Anton Pierre hurled the ball into the Guatemalan 18-metre box from a
left-side throw, an unmarked Sam gained possession to the right of the six-metre box.
But his powerful side-kick slammed into the side netting.
Minutes before, coach Luis Fernando Lujan's
squad had been reduced to ten men
when striker Guillermo Ramírez Ortega was ejected from the game for deliberately
elbowing Rahim in the face.
Despite the one-man advantage, T&T could
not make any impression on the scoreline
for the rest of the half.
Nor could they manage it in the remainder of the match. It was not for want of trying.
Midway through the second half, Errol McFarlane
gained possession after a Guatemala
attack broke down in midfield and slipped the ball through to Rahim. An agile Luis
Pedro Molina Bruni between the uprights for the visitors proved equal to the task of
stopping the midfielder's shot.
Bruni was there again to deny Rahim when he
shot from the top right-hand corner of
the penalty area with ten minutes to go in the contest.
And when Mc Farlane flicked on with his head
to Sam who did likewise to Joseph
Peters at the top of the box, Bruni again showed a clean pair of hands in dealing with
Peters's left-footed blast.
Perhaps seeing the writing on the wall, coach
Corneal rang in the changes, substituting
Addae Rique, Jason Scotland and Adrian Narine. To no avail.
So the one goal that would have settled the issue never came.
And if T&T are to make it into the final
round of the qualifying series in the US later this
year, they will have to earn at least one point from their game against Canada-or hope
for a major upset in the Guatemala versus Netherlands Antilles game if they do not.