Trinidad and Tobago’s Under 20 Women’s team put on their biggest show of resilience at the CONCACAF Under 20 Women’s championship to pull off a 5-4 victory on penalty kicks over Puerto Rico at the Estadio Panamericano on Sunday to seal their spot int the quarter finals.
The win came when goalkeeper Kill Keshwar made a stop diving to her right to deny Puerto Rico on their fifth attempt by Paola Morales. Before that Afiyah Cornwall notched a double in regulation time and Maria Frances Serrant pushed T&T 3-2 ahead in extra time before the stubborn Puerto Ricans drew level to force the game into penalties.
Senior team forward Aaliyah Prince was a force throughout and caused problems for the Puerto Rican defence. She helped put T&T off on the right note when her ball from the right found Cornwall who made no mistake in the second minute.
The early goal did not break Puerto Rico as they persisted and eventually saw their efforts pay off as T&T appeared to have taken their feet off the gas once they went ahead. Puerto Rico tied it in the 18th minute through forward Malina Pardo on an assist by Cristina Torres. Six minutes passed and Puerto Rico were celebrating again. Morales was involved on the right, pulling the ball back for Idelys Vázquez to fire past Keshwar from inside the area.
T&T would keep their cool and found the equaliser moments before the break with Cornwall connected with a Chrissy Mitchell right side delivery to slot home for the equaliser on 43 minutes. The game was turning out to be a far different affair from the 3-0 win for T&T prior to the tournament.
Both teams appeared jaded as the second half progressed and T&T had only themselves to blame for not taking the lead. Cornwall received one behind the defence from Latifha Pascall and with only the ‘keeper to beat, she shot wide of right upright. Pascall was at it again four minutes from the end, this time playing one through for Serrant but her low effort was well saved by goalkeeper Cristina Roque.
Serrant went close again in the 104th minute on a Megan Rampersad delivery but she would make amends early in the second half of extra time. Substitute Alexcia Ali got a touch on Pascall’s free kick and Serrant found herself in position to shot home for a 4-3 lead. The game wasn’t over quite yet as Torres had other things in mind, rising to meet a free kick and head past Keshwar. Scores tied and onto penalties.
T&T never showed nerves as all five kickers converted including Cornwall’s whose fifth kick turned out to be the winner before Keshwar came up big with the save. T&T’s penalty scorers were Tsai Ann Fernandez, Sarah De Gannes, Serrant, Tori Paul and Cornwall convened T&T’s kicks in that order. Keshwar then made the play of the game to spark wild celebrations in the T&T camp.
Hood later commended his players on the win but didn’t appear too thrilled with the team’s inability to contain the opponent.
“Of course I’m happy with the result. We have crossed the hurdle to get into the quarter finals which was our main objective coming into he tournament,” Hood told TTFA Media.
“We achieved the main objective, the objective of the technical committee which was getting to the quarter finals, My main objective was to get into the semi finals and we are still on course for that. I was not happy with the performance because I felt we did not stick to the game plan particularly in the first half. We were allowing the opponent way too much time on the ball and of course giving them the opportunity to hurt us with quality passes and runs. Additionally our defence did not handle the movement of the opponent very well. I think we corrected it a bit in the second half but again allowing that goal in injury time was a bit of a heartbreaker for us.
“The girls work hard and I’m happy about that. I am proud of the resilience shown. But we really could have worked smarter and I would have liked to see us stick to what we were supposed to do throughout. But I’m happy with the result. We have achieved the goal of getting to the quarter finals. Now we look towards preparing well for that quarter final and look to see what we can do against who would be the favourites, the Mexicans. They are a quality team and of course we have our work cut out. I don’t think it is impossible. At this stage of the tournament anything is possible. And if we prepare well and we recover well, have our plan and stick to our plan then anything is possible in the quarter finals.
Hood also commended the five players for their manner in which they approached the penalty kicks.
“I think the five kickers showed tremendous confidence and poise after 120 minutes of football to rise above everything and compose themselves to finish in the manner that they did. We only practiced penalties on two occasions in the previous two sessions and it was really a tremendous feat or them to execute as professionally as they did. I was of course also proud of the brilliance displayed by Klil, ” he said.
“The girl have now earned much deserved day off to recuperate after a tough 120 minutes before we get back onto the training pitch on Tuesday.”
Team manager Maylee Attin-Johnson, a former Under 20 player herself right through to senior level, said the most pleasing aspect for her was the character displayed by skipper Cornwall and her teammates.
“As poorly as we played what I was most proud of about the young ladies was their resilience and determination to never give up and to fight through a gruelling 90 plus minutes to come out of and still have the lead and confidence to score all five kicks. For us and what I know about tournament football is not about how good you look or how good you perform but it’s just about getting the job done and we were able to do that today and now we look forward to the game on Wednesday.
T&T will meet Mexico who ran out 12-1 winners over Grenada in their Round of 16 clash.
Trinidad and Tobago – 1.K’lil Keshwar (GK); 7.Sarah De Gannes; 15.Arnelle Douglas, 5.Tsai-Anne Fernandez, 4.Latifha Pascall, 11.Chrissy Mitchell; 6.Aaliyah Pascall (13.Megan Rampersad 97′), 19.Aaliyah Prince (20.Tori Paul 105′), 8.Maria-Frances Serrant; 9.Afiyah Cornwall (captain),12.Cayla McFarlane (10.Alexcia Ali 61′),
Unused substitutes: 18.Chelsea Ramnauth (GK), 2.Roshun Williams, 3.Nathifa Hackshaw, 14.Moenesa Mejias, 16.Sydni Greaves, 17.Cecile Loraine.
Head Coach: Richard Hood
Puerto Rico 1.Cristina Roque (GK); 3.Leilany Rivera, 2.Alondra Nieves, 15.Belerica Oquendo, 6.Julia Rodríguez; 9.Ana María Díaz (8.María Colón 64′), 5.Gabrielle Cimino (19.Caileen Almeida 95′), 4.Idelys Vázquez (captain); 16.Paola Morales, 7.Malina Pardo, 11.Cristina Torres.
Unused substitutes: 18.Cristina Nazario (GK), 10.Mariana Varela, 12.Andrea Santiago, 13.Mikaela Jennings, 14.Sofía Goytia, 17.Zoemi Cobián, 20.Valeria Pomales.
Head Coach : Elias Llabres