It was not the winning start that we’d all hoped for but Monday night’s 2-2 draw with El Salvador’s was better than Trinidad and Tobago’s two previous CONCACAF Gold Cup encounters against the same opponents (3-2 loss in 1996,2-1 loss in 2007). Both teams battled out before a partisan crowd dominated by El Salvadorians at the Red Bull Arena. There was end to end action and an exciting display by both teams as the game swung both ways over the 90 minutes of action.
T&T got a perfect start when a ball by Carlos Edwards took a favourable bounce to Keon Daniel on the edge of the box and the Philadelphia Union midfielder took clinically slotted past goalkeeper Dagoberto Portillo in the 10th minute.
The goal silenced the El Salvador fans but it may have woke up the players as the Central Americans were allowed to settle and were soon into good stride, going on to enjoy the better of the exchanges for the next half hour.
El Salvador, after a Kevon Carter gave away a free kick just atop the area, tied the game when Rodolfo Zalaya sent his free kick into the right of the net past an outstretched Jan Michael Williams.
T&T might have shown too much respect to their opponents in the first half and struggled to hold onto possession for long enough periods. Racing Genk midfielder Khaleem Hyland was efficient in the middle of the park as he and skipper Densill Theobald tried to control the pace in the midfield. Middlesbrough right back Justin Hoyte was also solid in the T&T defence that had to dig deep to help T&T grind out the draw.
T&T had a scare three minutes from the break when Rafael Burgos’ drive bounced off the heel of the upright.
The second half saw the introduction of Darryl Roberts in place of Carter who did not find his footing on the night and the Turkish-based player, on his second touch of the game, forced an effort just wide.
T&T, thought still vulnerable at times whenever El Salvador surged into attack managed to spend more time in and around the El Salvador box. Edwards, who looked in good form with some of his mazy runs, had two good opportunities but could not beat Portillo.
Rodolfo Zelaya directed a close-range header past Williams from a right side cross to give El Salvador a 2-1 lead in the 70th.
Jones, who was cautioned for arguing with Mexican Referee Marco Rodriguez in the 58th minute could not be faulted for effort and got just reward when he ran onto a Joevin Jones long ball and took it down well, turning and spanking home to send the 300 odd T&T fans and the T&T bench into a frenzy. His first goal for T&T since the one against Guyana in November, 2011, was followed by his trademark celebratory flips.
Osael Romero had another try which came off the post
Williams pulled off the save off the match in the 89th minute to deny a great overhead attempt by substitute Mark Blanco. It was a deserved point in the end and T&T will now see full points against Haiti, which lost 2-0 to Honduras, as both teams clash in Sun Life, Miami on Friday
Trinidad and Tobago 21.Jan-Michael Williams; 17.Justin Hoyte, 5.Carlyle Mitchell (6.Daneil Cyrus, 83’), 20.Seon Power, 3.Joevin Jones; 18.Densill Theobald (Capt), 8.Khaleem Hyland; 16.Kevon Carter (12.Darryl Roberts, 70’), 19.Keon Daniel (23.Jamal Gay, 83’), 11.Carlos Edwards; 9.Kenwyne Jones.
Subs not used: 22.Cleon John, 7.Chris Birchall, 10.Kevin Molino, 13.Cornell Glen, 14.Andre Boucaud, 25.Aubrey David, 26.Curtis Gonzales, 32.Radanfah Abu Bakr.
El Salvador (4-4-2): 1.Dagoberto Portillo; 2.Moises Xavier Garcia, 3.Victor Turcios (Capt), 4.Steven Purdy, 16.Jaime Alas, 14.Dustin Corea (12.Andres Flores, 62’), 8.Osael Romero, 7.Darwin Ceren, 6.Richard Menjivar, 11.Rodolfo Zelaya, 9.Rafael Burgos (17.Mark Blanco, 78’).
Subs not used: 5.Jose Granadino, 10.Kevin Santamaria, 13.Alexander Larin, 15.Darwin Bonilla, 18.Benji Villalobos, 19.Gerson Mayen, 20.Josue Flores, 21.Nestor Renderos, 22.Derby Carrillo, 23.Jose Gutierrez.