Game Report: Trinidad and Tobago vs Honduras
By LASANA LIBURD
THE script called for them to win their home games but the Trinidad and Tobago national football team suffered a devastating blow in their 2002 World Cup qualifying campaign yesterday afternoon. The Soca Warriors fell 4-2 to Honduras at the Hasely Crawford Stadium in Port of Spain.
And the defeat by the visiting “Catrachos” was achieved rather more easily than the scoreline might suggest. Honduras now lie in third spot on the six-team Concacaf table with four remaining home matches.
The “Soca Warriors”, on the other hand, need a miraculous turnaround if they are to stand any chance of earning a berth in the 2002 World Cup, to be jointly hosted by Korea and Japan.
There is still a mathematical chance, though, if coach Ian Porterfield can inspire his troops to an away win and consecutive home victories over Jamaica, Costa Rica and the United States.
But on the evidence of yesterday, it is difficult to believe that either the Scottish coach or his men are up to such a task.
After being initially cut from the squad by the technical director René Simoes, Manchester United striker Dwight Yorke had promised, in the pre-game build-up, to let his feet do the talking.
He did not say much in yesterday’s match, though, managing just one shot which rolled wide to the right of the Honduran upright.
Teammate Anthony Rougier, who—like Yorke—had talked his way out of trouble with the technical staff, was no more voluble and was justifiably replaced at the interval.
A few sublime touches from talismanic midfielder Russell Latapy was as good as it got for the hosts.
Relegated to the substitutes’ bench—as was West Ham custodian Shaka Hislop—for the first half, Latapy again confounded his critics by effortlessly shrugging off the rust of over four weeks of inactivity.
The Warriors’ first meaningful shot on target came within seconds of his entrance.
Nottingham Forest striker Stern John suddenly realised there was a game to be won and let fly a blistering right-footer. Custodian Noel Valladares’s desperate block seemed to have more to do with self-preservation than the three points up for grabs.
Ironically, it was the Hondurans who benefitted from their opponents’ attack. They scored a splendid goal on the break through substitute, Rony Morales, in the 54th minute.
But two minutes later, Latapy answered with a composed finish from the edge of the area after some good approach work from Brent Rahim on the left flank.
For the next ten minutes, the small crowd of just under 5,000 patrons willed on their team who seemed to have grown in confidence.
But sent clear by teammate Arnold Dwarika in the 60th minute, John failed to keep his shot down.
Four minutes later, an ambitious effort from Mickey Trotman deflected off the wrong side of the upright after a well worked one-two with Latapy.
But it was a case of showing up at the terminus after the bus had departed. And there were only smiling Honduran faces on board.
Employing a delightful mixture of pace and creativity, the Hondurans were clearly the better prepared team in what began as a bottom of the table clash.
They needed barely ten minutes to show who were the better side. A wayward Rahim pass was picked off by Honduran skipper Carlos Pavón who sent the impressive David Suazo clear only for his shot to flash past the far post, goalkeeper Clayton Ince’s defence left to resemble mere spectators in the play.
It would be a recurring theme during the match.
Suazo, who scored four times in the 2000 Olympic Games, has made just 11 senior team appearances owing to a relentless tug-of-war between Italian Serie B team Cagliari and national coach Ramón Maradiaga.
For almost 90 minutes, the T&T defence struggled to get near the speedy, skilful forward—and rarely managed to stop him.
His pace won two penalties from sweeper Dennis Lawrence and Ince respectively which were converted by Pavón in the 13th minute and playmaker Amado Guevara in the 89th.
Suazo was also instrumental in Morales’s item, early in the second half, after another incisive Honduran counter-attack.
But while his direct approach—which has earned him comparisons with Brazilian superstar Ronaldo—regularly unsettled the T&T backline, the guile of Guevara was equally effective.
Guevara’s slipped pass for midfielder Danilo Turcios in the 22nd minute was worth at least half of his goal.
His partnership with José Luis “Thin Man” Piñeda in the midfield was irresistible and, for once, left Reynold Carrington looking woefully out of his depth.
Still, it was substitute Morales who had the visitors’ best move with just his second touch of the game.
One flick of the left boot created the necessary space, the other sent the ball crashing past Ince at his far post for a then three-nil advantage.
John managed his first goal of the qualifying campaign in stoppage time after a Dwarika through pass but it was too late to save the match.
The technical staff failed to turn up for the scheduled post-game media conference to discuss it but, obviously, a whole lot more is now needed to save the Warriors’ faltering campaign as well.
STAND-IN Trinidad and Tobago skipper Marvin Andrews and his teammates strode into the Hasely Crawford Stadium yesterday, it would seem, in a daze following a tumultuous 72 hours.
Shaken to the core in the build-up to the crucial clash, after the dropping and re-instatement of teammates Dwight Yorke and Anthony Rougier, T&T's 2002 World Cup dream was all but put to bed after a 4-2 spanking by Honduras.
With CONCACAF Zone leaders United States, Costa Rica and Jamaica all achieving positive results, the Gods will have to smile considerably on T&T now for it to achieve its goal of reaching a first-ever World Cup Finals.
The US - which drew 0-0 with Jamaica - now has 10 points, while Costa Rica jumped to seven following a stunning 2-1 victory over Mexico. Honduras and Jamaica, with five points each, are next, while Mexico has four with T&T still languishing at the bottom on a single point.
There are still those who will argue that skipper designate Russell Latapy's men still have a mathematical chance of reaching Japan and Korea next year.
Yet, it is unlikely that any of the meagre 8,000 fans who turned up at the Stadium yesterday - save the diehards -will bet in favour of a T&T recovery.
Already weakened by the absence of the suspended Angus Eve, absent Ronnie Mauge and injured Jerren Nixon, T&T coach Ian Porterfield also surprisingly decided to go without the inspirational Latapy - due to fitness fears - and experienced England-based goalie Shaka Hislop.
But the men given the responsibility to drive the team forward in midfield, Arnold Dwarika and Reynold Carrington, simply did not spark at all.
Indeed, apart from Mickey Trotman's early close range drive, which was well saved by Honduras keeper Noel Valladares, T&T was mostly under siege by a hungrier and fitter Honduras side in the first half.
The man leading the Honduras charge was speedy David Suazo, who made the T&T defence look leaden-footed whenever he approached the penalty area.
He was responsible for setting up the first goal, forcing defender Dennis Lawrence to bring him down in the penalty area in the 13th minute, after he had run almost the entire length of the field in a swift counter-attack.
Skipper Carlos Pavon then easily beat T&T keeper, Clayton Ince, to the delight of a handful of Honduras supporters.
Pavon was also at the heart of the move which put his team 2-0 up in the 22nd minute. The burly striker sent a neat through ball to teammate Danilo Turcios just outside the penalty area and he shot past an advancing Ince.
After that, the Honduran onslaught was well and truly on.
Porterfield switched to a 3-5-2 system for the second half to counter the opposition's speed. He also brought in Dale Saunders for Anthony Rougier, who had a disappointing game, and Latapy, eight minutes after the resumption.
But it would be Honduran substitute Rony Morales who would strike the most telling blow. He put his side 3-0 up in the 54th minute with a well- placed, long-range right-footer from just outside the penalty area after yet another swift counter-attack.
Latapy then produced his only piece of magic, slotting a loose ball ,which came to him off Stern John, past keeper Valladares to reduce the deficit to 3-1.
But there would be no comeback for T&T, as Amado Guevara restored the Honduran advantage from the penalty spot two minutes from the end, after Suazo was again brought down, this time by Ince, before Stern John got a consolation item in injury time.