Despite a fair amount of grit and determination displayed by the Trinidad and Tobago team against their Jamaican opponents, something that has scarcely occurred in the past whenever the local team was behind, it was not enough to prevent World Cup qualifiers Jamaica from defeating the defending champions 2-1 to capture the 1998 Shell Caribbean Cup at the Hasely Crawford Stadium on Friday evening in front of approximately 8,000 fans. This also meant that the new champions have qualified for the Gold Cup tournament to be held in 2000.
The visitors took the initiative in the 20th minute when following a
good build up, Ricardo Gardner found Theodore Whitmore inside the penalty
area who in turn laid off pass to Oneil McDonald. He made no mistake in
getting the ball past a stranded Clayton Ince in goal to the delight of
Jamaican supporters consisting mainly of students from the University campus in St. Augustine.
The early advantage went to the Reggae Boyz, but the locals were playing
a good brand of football on a heavy outfield caused by rain showers earlier
in the day. However, the Jamaicans were still in
charge of the early proceedings with their defenders keeping strikers Stern John and Irasto Knights at bay. Skipper David Nakhid was being tightly marked by Christopher Dawes which meant that things were not running as smooth in the midfield department for TT as it had in the previous matches.
At the same time John was not being given all that room as before and struggled in the first half except for one or two close chances that went a begging..
The goal which killed of the attempts of the TT team came in the 34th
minute in controversial proceedings. A long ball played forward by playmaker
Whitmore was met by Dean Sewell who seemed to be well offside, 8,000 or
so local supporters furiously called for the offside flag to be
raised, but to the amazement of the TT players and the fans as well, assistant Merere Gonzales kept the flag to his side and referee Felipe Ramos allowed play to continue. The end result of the play was Sewell making his way into the penalty area completely unchallenged and he easily dribbled past the advancing Clayton Ince to put the ball into an empty net with no defenders in sight except for a hopeless last second attempt made by Sherwyn Julian to clear the ball, but he too was way too late.
Several players of the Trinidad team were fuming with disgust and despite arguments with referee Ramos following the goal, the interval came with Jamaica comfortably ahead by a two goal margin.
The second period was probably the most keenly contested of the tournament with both team launching several attacks on goal with TT looking for the early strike while the visitors tried to put the game out of their rivals reach.
In the 1st minute following the resumption, 'keeper Aaron Lawrence was called upon to pull off his best save of the match when United Petrotrin player Sherwyn Julian sent Irasto Knights on the road to goal with a through ball, but Lawrence came off his line to block Knight's shot. An opportunity that many felt Knights should have made better use of, despite forcing Lawrence to save brilliantly, winning a corner in the process. Clint Marcelle saw his shot go into the side netting and it was felt the desperately needed first goal for the locals had been missed.
Then two minutes after, once again Columbus Crew forward Stern John put a bit of life back into his team when he rose above the entire Jamaica defence from behind to meet David Nakhid's well directed free-kick into the 18 yard boxer, the play was superbly finished by a powerful header which beat goalkeeper Aaron Lawrence all ends up.
This was the wake up call that was ordered at the half-time break.
The Trinidadians could consider themselves unlucky in not being able to
pull of the equalizer. Lawrence came up big time on at least four occasions
to deny Nakhid and his crew from tying up the scores. Some breathtaking
the custodian denied goal bound shots from Nakhid, Knights and Marcelle. The crowd was now screaming their hearts out as the game was becoming action packed with end to end action.
The Jamaicans were not played entirely over and they themselves caused
a few anxious in the suspect TT defence. Substitutes Winston Griffiths,
Fabian Davis and goalscorer McDonald all had close attempts which
just went wide of the target. Nakhid had a glorious opportunity in the
half to steal the equalizer when he received a loose ball inside the six
yard box. Lawrence had already
advanced towards him and he got off a powerless shot past him, but with the ball apparently on its way past the goal line and with the crowd already off their seats and shouting 'goal', somehow a Jamaican defender arrived to clear the ball almost as in slow motion.
The same happened at the opposite end when Whitmore also saw his shot
intervened by a TT defender.
The play of the game was probably John's magical effort midway through the half when he chest-trapped the ball and with his marker close on his back, he immediately turned goalwards,with the ball just off the surface and his marker seemingly a few seconds behind time, he fired a left footed volley which somehow managed not to enter the net but instead went inches wide of the left post.
One wondered what more the locals had to do to even up the scores.
The second goal in which assistant Gonzalez , who recently officiated at the France '98 World Cup, failed to signal offside, would continue to be the subject of debate in Trinidad for a while as the locals were forced to give up their title in unfortunate circumstances.
At the same time, nothing should be taken away from the Reggae Boyz, as they gave a creditable performance and showed that they possessed the class which took them to the World stage, something which the Twin Island Republic continue to strive for.
Teams: Jamaica - Aaron Lawrence, Dean Sewell, Ricardo Gardner, Anthony Waug, Theodore Whitmore, Onandi Lowe, Gregory Messam, Ian Goodison, Christopher Dawes, Oneil McDonald, Kevin Wilson Substitutes : Peter Cargill, Winston Griffiths, Fabian Davis
TT - Clayton Ince, Keyeno Thomas, Ansil Elcock, Shurland David, Anthony Rougier, David Nakhid, Kerwyn Jemmot, Clint Marcelle, Stern John, Irasto Knights. Substitutes Dale Saunders, Lyndon Andrews
Haiti defeated Antigua and Barbuda 3-2 in the earlier game played at
Dr.Joao Havenlage Centre of Excellence to take Third place.
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