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|CONCACAF UPSET - T&T VS BERMUDA|
The top teams in the CONCACAF zone started down the road to the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™ this weekend. And while most contests went according to the script or thereabouts, there were a few shocks, most notably Trinidad and Tobago's 2-1 loss to rank outsiders Bermuda on home soil.
Of the eight Round 2 first leg matches played on Sunday, T&T's defeat was by far the most surprising. Without injured Sunderland hit-man Kenwyne Jones, new boss Francisco Maturana's Soca Warriors looked out of sorts from the start, and they found themselves a goal down after only eight minutes thanks to the predatory instincts of journeyman striker John Barry Nusum.
After wasting a host of chances, the home side clawed their way back after 22 minutes through all-time top scorer Stern John, but Nusum silenced the Marvin Lee Stadium crowd in Macoya for good when his second goal, five minutes from the interval, sealed a historic win for the Bermudans.
"It's an unbelievable feeling. I'm extremely proud of everyone involved," commented Bermuda boss Keith Tucker, who has described the current generation of Bermudan players as "one of the best in the country's history."
The USA had a far easier time of it in their game in Los Angeles, beating Barbados 8-0 in the rout of the round. Clint Dempsey opened the scoring inside the first minute, and finished with two goals. Brian Ching scored three for the strolling Americans, and Landon Donovan (playing in his 101st international), Michael Bradley and Eddie Johnson all grabbed goals of their own. It was the USA's largest-ever margin of victory, surpassing an 8-1 friendly win in 1993 over the Cayman Islands.
"It's good to get the whole thing underway," said USA coach Bob Bradley. "We started strong and kept it going. I would call that a definite success."
The Americans' arch-rivals Mexico also won, but had a far tougher time against an inspired Belize in Houston, Texas. Arsenal-bound Carlos Vela opened the scoring in the 65th minute before veteran substitute Jared Borgetti sealed a nervy 2-0 win with a penalty in stoppage time. "I said before the match, you can't underestimate Belize. They defended well and gave us a very tough game," said Santos Laguna midfielder Fernando Arce. "We'll need to do better in the second leg."
Canada entered the qualifying race with a simple 3-0 win over St. Vincent and the Grenadines on the road. Ali Gerba, who came on as a sub in the seventh minute for the injured Rob Friend, scored twice after Issey Nakajima-Farran opened the scoring.
Elsewhere on Sunday, the Netherlands Antilles kept their hopes of reaching the group stages alive with a creditable 0-0 draw against reigning Caribbean champions Haiti in Port au Prince.
Panama entered the qualifying race with a simple, but hardly emphatic, 1-0 home win over El Salvador, who were so impressive in the first round of qualifying. "I am relaxed and satisfied since we still have another 90 minutes to play, and we are a very good team at home," said Salvadorean coach Carlos de los Cobos, while Panama boss Alexandre Guimaraes was pleased with the result. "We did what we came to do," said the Brazilian-born Costa Rican.
Jamaica rounded out Sunday's action with a huge win, 7-0 over the Bahamas. Luton Shelton scored twice while Ricardo Gardner, Demar Phillips, Marlon King, Andrew Williams and Omar Daley grabbed a goal apiece.
Honduras booked their passage through to the group stage with a 2-2 draw against Puerto Rico in San Juan. Although the result was a surprise, the 4-0 edge they had from the first leg last week made the aggregate a fairly bloated 6-2. Puerto Rico, though soundly beaten, showed signs of tremendous improvement.
Costa Rica needed a comeback and even then could only manage a 2-2 draw with Grenada. Patrick Modeste opened the scoring 20 minutes in and Blackburn Rovers ace Jason Roberts made it a two-goal lead seven minutes later before Armando Alonso cut the deficit in the 42nd minute and Junior Diaz equalised, much to the relief of the visitors, in the 75th.
"We weren't as bad as the score suggests," said Costa Rica coach Hernan Medford after the game. "We do need to improve for the second leg."
Suriname pulled off a minor shock of their own by beating neighbours Guyana 1-0 in Paramaribo. The Guyanese were one of the 12 seeded teams in the region, but looked a shadow of themselves in their first qualifier.
Domestic-based Clifton Sandvliet, playing in his 67th game for Suriname, popped up unmarked in the 53rd minute to grab the only goal of the contest and keep up the team's form after eliminating Montserrat 7-1 over two legs in the last round.
Saturday's last match saw Guatemala give tiny St. Lucia a lesson in finishing, winning 6-0. LA Galaxy striker Carlos 'El Pescadito' Ruiz grabbed himself no less than four goals after Freddy Garcia opened the scoring in the sixth minute. Abner Trigueros notched the other goal for the Chapines, who look in good shape heading into their second leg on the island.
One first leg encounter remains as Cuba travel to Antigua and Barbuda on Tuesday. The all-important return legs take place between 18 and 22 June. (fifa.com)
What the Papers Say
Warriors Stunned - Newsday
A DOUBLE strike by John Nusum earned Bermuda a shock 2-1 victory over an ineffective Soca Warriors in this country’s opening CONCACAF zone World Cup 2010 qualifier at the Marvin Lee Stadium, Dr Joao Havelange Centre of Excellence, Macoya, Tunapuna, yesterday.
This means the Soca Warriors, qualifiers at the last World Cup Finals in Germany in 2006, need to beat the Bermudans by two clear goals in the return leg to be played in Bermuda on Sunday, to move on in the qualifiers.
The Soca Warriors looked far from the unit that drew 1-1 with the Jamaica Reggae Boyz at the same venue a week ago and the only bright spark was Stern John’s equalising goal which tied with Germany’s Gerd Muller for sixth on the all-time World Cup goal-scoring list.
His goal which came in the 22nd minute was his 68th in World Cup action in his 101st appearance. But it could not help the Soca Warriors from a disappointing defeat, on a night when a large crowd including a rhythm section supporting all the way could not lift them.
John was guilty of numerous missed chances, especially a simple one in the 89th minute which would have levelled the score. Lanky defender Dennis Lawrence joined the attack and headed down a ball into unmarked John’s path well inside the six-yard box and with only Bermuda goalkeeper Timmy Figuerido to beat, he shot wide.
John missed several other chances which, had he taken them, could well have seen him net a hat-trick. As early as the 7th minute, Nusum stunned the partisan crowd when he was found unmarked by Khano Smith who eluded defender Kareem Smith on the left flank and sent a perfect centre for him to easily steer the ball into the net.
The Bermudan celebrations were almost cut short as Aurtis Whitley’s long pass found John, but he hit a weak shot straight into the arms of Figuerido. But the Southampton striker was to make amends with his equalising goal when another Whitley pass bounced favourably for him in the area and he beat the advancing keeper with a right foot shot.
Only moments later John again was found free in the Bermuda area with a Carlos Edwards centre, only to bang his shot wide of the mark.
Just when the Soca Warriors seemed to be putting their game together came the second Bermuda goal in somewhat controversial fashion.
Soca Warriors goalkeeper Clayton Ince in attempting to take high a high ball from Bermuda’s Damon Ming in the 39th minute, fell awkwardly and as he lay injured on the artificial turf, referee Cordero Quesada allowed play to go on and the ball rolled to Nusum who slotted into an unguarded net. Trailing 2-1 at the half time interval, the Soca Warriors mounted a series of attacks on the Bermuda goal in search of the elusive equaliser.
And in the 48th minute striker Jason Scotland turned and twisted away from his marker on the left flank, but shot wide from an acute angle when John was wide open in the centre of the goal.
Then moments later Osei Telesford saw his powerful shot whiz past the Bermuda goal with the keeper beaten.
But the best chance fell to John with only a minute to go on the clock in regulation time, but to the despair of the partisan fans, he missed palpably. (Walter Alibey, June 16.)
Beaten - Trinidad Express
A week from today, Trinidad and Tobago travel to Hamilton, Bermuda to rescue their World Cup football campaign.
Great strides begin with baby steps, and yesterday the Soca Warriors stumbled at the first step towards South Africa 2010 when they were surprisingly defeated 2-1 by a poor quality Bermuda team in their opening match of the new campaign last night at a packed Marvin Lee Stadium, Macoya.
Nine out of 10 times, the Soca Warriors would have worked over that sub-standard bunch. But when both strikers Stern John and Jason Scotland missed easy chances to score in the waning moments, it summed up a huge off day for T&T. They may yet go to Bermuda and whip the islanders by a handful. But the journey to South Africa has hit choppy waters. It will now be a test of character to see if the Soca Warriors deserve to qualify for a second consecutive World Cup.
Prior to yesterday's showdown, the last five meetings between the teams produced four victories and a draw in T&Tobago's favour. And during that time, T&T scored 4-0 and 5-0 victories, including one in Hamilton seven years ago. The only joy Bermuda had in that time was a 1-0 win in 1989 against a T&T second string side at a time when the Strike Squad was engaged in World Cup qualifying.
Yesterday, Bermuda proved to be as motivated as expected and shocked the locals when leading 2-1 at the half, both goals coming from striker John-Barry Nusum. Not that Bermuda were a good team, but, the home team simply played below their usual level. T&T played ugly football at times.
First, the pace was too slow, thus playing to the strengths of the pudgy Bermudans. And when coach Francisco Maturana switched to the 3-5-2 system to include striker John at the start, he would have expected his wide players Carlos Edwards and Keon Daniel to track back at times.
But, Maturana had a problem, because none of the midfielders defended. And not until the desperate moments, did senior players like Edwards turn up the pressure. The exception, though, was striker John, who even dropped to midfield to pick up the ball.
Had Edwards bothered to track back, Bermudan Khano Smith would not have had such an easy time getting by T&T right defender Kareem Smith to set up Nusum who tapped the ball in from six metres , giving Bermuda an eighth minute lead.
Shock, yes. But the Soca Warriors were soon level at 1-1 in the 23rdminute through John, who got his 68th goal in national colours, after taking Aurtis Whitley's deep pass and bouncing the ball over keeper Timmy Figuerodo. John then missed an easy chance to get a second goal on the half hour.
And against the run of play, Bermuda were given a gift when Costa Rican referee Walter Marquesada allowed the game to continue despite T&T keeper Clayton Ince crashing into his defender Makan Hislop and going down injured. Nusum picked up the loose ball and whipped the ball into the goal in the 44thminute, giving Bermuda an unlikely 2-1 lead.
Maturana took off young midfielder Khaleem Hyland at the start of the second half and switched to the orthodox 4-4-2 system. But, it was an anxious time in the second period when the Warriors were pouring forward without reward
On one such occasion, Whitley picked out Edwards with a searching diagonal pass, but the latter looked confused and hit a wayward pass. He should have shot to goal. And, later both Whitley and Kareem Smith had good shots from long-range, but just failed to score.
Because, T&T were loose in the midfield, the Bermudans picked up many of the loose balls. Growing in confidence, they were able to create some anxious moments, particularly through Damon Ming on the right flank, and looked capable of getting another goal.
Down the stretch, Bermuda were under siege. But by then, the Soca Warriors were in panic mode, and nothing they did produced that precious tying goal. A week from now will prove whether they are still in the World Cup picture. (Ian Prescott, Photo by Robert Taylor)