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TnT struggles for victory

By TERENCE HILTON CLARKE
(c)copyright


21 July 2000


 

IT was a great result but, unfortunately, not a great performance.

On one hand, it was a victory that came with a three-part package of benefits: it was Trinidad and Tobago’s first ever win over Canada at senior level; it came after a dismal run of form that saw three defeats in five internationals and, most importantly, it gave this country a valuable haul of three points, gained away from home. Surely one could not have asked for a better start.

However, a thorough analysis would confirm that there was much in Trinidad and Tobago’s performance in Edmonton, last Sunday, to indicate that the national team still hasn’t quite sorted itself out as yet. There are still too many deficiencies and, considering that Trinidad and Tobago’s next opponents happen to be Mexico, this is not great news at all.

Once again, the defence looked too shaky for its own good. Panic seemed to be the order of the day at times: for example, there was the instance when the rearguard struggled to clear the ball, with a chance falling to Canada’s Jason Bent, whose shot had to be tipped over the bar by Clayton Ince. There were also occasions when Canadian attackers were allowed way too much space on the flanks, particularly during the first half – when Trinidad and Tobago was never allowed to get its game going.

This had to do with the fact that the midfield had a virtually non-existent first 45 minutes, with Trinidad and Tobago players rarely able to string more than three passes together, and get the ball up front on a regular basis. Hence, Canada was able to dominate in the middle of the park – even though carrying the ball up through the middle is not really their game. The hosts got several players forward and, as such, tremendous pressure was placed on the visitors’ defence. In such circumstances, Trinidad and Tobago needed a goal against the run of play: which is exactly what Angus Eve provided in the 43rd minute.

The display in the second half was, certainly, much better. Trinidad and Tobago played with more purpose and really took it to the Canadian defence. However, the midfield was still prone to giving the ball away, allowing the Canadians to continuously test Ince – who managed to come through unscathed, in spite of an uncharacteristically poor performance. Trinidad and Tobago even came within a foot of conceding a penalty in the 72nd minute when Dennis Lawrence was goaded into handling a long ball, right on the edge of the penalty box. As it was, the Canadian free kick led to a counter attack from which Dwight Yorke was able to get Trinidad and Tobago’s insurance goal.

 So, a victory was gained away from home, against the Gold Cup champions no less, with leadership of Group C being thrown into the bargain.
 

But, the national team will be cruelly brought to earth unless improvements are made to both the midfield and the defence. These are the exact weaknesses that Mexico has taken advantage of, with 4-2 and 4-0 wins over Trinidad and Tobago in the last two meetings between the sides. This country’s team is now in a position to capitalize on home advantage. The question is: Is this country’s team capable of capitalizing on home advantage?

Coach Ian Porterfield should be aware of what needs to be done over the next couple of days. He will know that the sight of Trinidad and Tobago sitting atop the standings with three points is partially a veneer, masking the chinks that lie underneath it. Unless these cracks are closed somewhat, the ever-dangerous Mexicans will surely open them up.
 
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