TRINIDAD AND Tobago Under-20 football team coach Angus Eve described his team’s opening performance at the 2022 Concacaf Championships against Haiti on Sunday as an “emotional” affair.
Three lead changes and a 30-minute stoppage in the second half because of bad weather saw TT hold on to a 4-4 roller coaster result at the Estadio Morazan, San Pedro Sula, Honduras.
TT led the entertaining Group F encounter on three occasions, and Haiti once, before both teams finished with a share of the spoils.
“All in all, I am very proud of them. We went up twice in the match, three times at the end, went down, then back came up again…a lot of emotions, stoppages, 30 minutes, lightning, it was a normal soap opera tonight,” Eve told TT Football Association media after the match.
Eve was pleased with the intensity shown by his players but said their lack of experience showed.
“I thought the guys did really well. It’s important to note that we have the youngest team in here. A lot of the guys are 17 now turning 18.
“And a lot of the guys (opponents) are more mature than them and you saw the immaturity in our guys, sometimes, in the type of plays that they would have made,” Eve added.
According to the Conacaf tournament website, TT's starting eleven featured four 19-year-olds while Haiti had just one of similar age. Haiti also had seven 17 year olds in their starting eleven while Eve selected just two for TT – goalie Jaheim Wickham and midfielder Kaihim Thomas.
Nathaniel James opened the scoring for TT in the second minute but Haiti responded with an equaliser in the 30th via Watz Leazard.
Thomas restored TT’s lead at 2-1 in the 40th minute, only for 2022 Flow Concacaf Caribbean Club Shield best young player award winner Steevenson Jeudy to level the field once more in the 43rd.
The second half saw Jeudy score again in the 53rd to give Haiti their first lead of the match at 3-2, but back came TT with a brilliant solo effort from substitute Real Gill in the 70th and James’ second two minutes later, to make it 4-3 to TT heading into the final minutes.
But in the 90th minute, Haiti’s Bryan Destin scored to complete the 4-4 scoreline and secure a point each for both nations.
Eve said there were many positives for the TT team.
“The fight. The few times that we put down the ball, we can see that we can play. We can match with the other teams. Haiti is a very good team.
“Nathaniel James just turned 18 yesterday (Saturday) and he scored two wonderful goals. The guys who came on, Real Gill, De Gannes (Andrew) they were fantastic. They fit in like normal. And you can see the versatility in the players. Kaihim went back at right back and it was seamless.
“And we scored really good goals. It wasn’t scruffle goals...
"I told the guys to keep on what we’re doing and it will come. And it came today but unfortunately we didn’t keep them out.”
He believes the second-half stoppage owing to bad weather may have took some steam out of TT’s momentum before the resumption.
Looking ahead at Tuesday’s clash against tournament favourites Mexico, Eve said player recovery is crucial. TT complete their group stage against Suriname on Thursday.
On notching his first goal for TT, and a spectacular one at that, Gill dedicated his strike to his mother.
“It’s a very great feeling to score your first goal for your country, it’s something that I always dreamed about as a child. I dedicate my goal to my mom.
“That’s me. I just love to do that. After I made the throw to Nathaniel and he gave it back to me. I was going to cross and I saw the man (Haitian defender) jump and so I said let me take it to them one time,” he said.
Gill was “disappointed” to not secure the three points.
“We saw our mistakes tonight so for the next two games hopefully we could cover that and get the three points in each game.
“For the past couple days we were trying to not to stress on it (tournament). But two days before, we had a serious talk and everybody got serious. The spirit (in the team) is very high right now,” he said.