AC Port of Spain coach Walt Noriega has called on his team to look in the mirror after they crashed out the Concacaf Caribbean Cup tournament with their third straight defeat.
The TT Premier Football League (TTPFL) runners-up AC Port of Spain were beaten 3-2 by Martinique champions Golden Lion FC at the Hasely Crawford Stadium, Mucurapo on Wednesday.
AC PoS needed a victory in their group A match to keep any hopes of advancing to the tournament's knockout phase. However, they had a disastrous start and were behind by a 2-0 margin after just 16 minutes.
Thierry Catherine scored with a close-range left-footer in just the second minute, before AC PoS defender Robert Primus turned the ball into his own goal after a mazy run down the left by winger Jordy Boriel.
Noriega said the early goals "rattled" his team, but he felt confident that they would eventually find the net.
AC PoS pulled a goal back before the halftime interval, as their lanky defender Radanfah Abu Bakr headed a John-Paul Rochford free kick past Golden Lion goalkeeper Giles Meslien in the 28th minute.
The hosts were clearly chasing a positive result, and by halftime, Noriega made as many as four changes, including replacing both full backs.
Noriega said his full backs were somehow hesitant to push forward so the substitutions were intended to give his team more width in attack.
The shift in intensity reaped some rewards for AC PoS in the 68th minute, as Golden Lion defender Samuel Mondesir bundled a shot into his own net after a lovely solo run through the middle of the park by opposing substitute Tyrone Charles.
However, in the 83rd minute, AC PoS's dreams were effectively dashed, as opposing captain Kevin Parsemain calmly slotted a penalty past Marvin Phillip, after Abu Bakr committed a foul in the area. Seconds before Golden Lion's third goal, Charles wasted a glorious opportunity at the other end after getting a sweet through pass by midfielder Che Benny.
AC would go on to rue that miss.
AC PoS tried desperately to get the goals needed to clinch the much-needed win, but the visitors held firm to get their first three points of the tournament. The TT club will now play for pride in their final game versus familiar opposition in TTPFL champions Defence Force on September 28.
Defence Force have four points from their two matches and are second in group A.
Noriega again blamed the team's profligacy in front goal. "We were expecting to do much better than we did tonight, The final third let us down – for the third game...The problem is not creating the chances – it's the executing of the chances."
He said the team will look to blood the next generation of players ahead of the second season of the TTPFL.
"Our job now is to get the boys back in focus, We have to implement some of the younger boys in the team. We have to keep pushing and keep working...We fall of the boil in this competition but it's not the end of AC PoS. We will regroup, fix what needs to be fixed and come back again."
Golden Lion's Kevin Parsemain said they anticipated a desperate AC PoS throwing everything at them.
"We knew it would have been a very tough game because the other team needed to win. We needed to win too, because we want to stay alive in the competition."
He said AC PoS stuck to their style and his team had to dig deep to get the result.
"It was a good beginning of the game, but we knew they are good with the ball. That's what they did – they played their game and they are pretty good at it. We had to be strong together after the good beginning."