“It was definitely the most tasking thing I’ve ever done in my life so far.
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Hart: I can’t accept that performance
Soca Warriors coach Stephen Hart says he will accept the performance of his team, in its come-from-behind 3-2 win away to St Vincent and The Grenadines in their 2018 World Cup Concacaf Semifinal Round Group C qualifier on Friday afternoon in Kingstown, St Vincent.
The Soca Warriors missing a few key players due to injury, overcame a first-half deficit to get the better of St Vincent and the Grenadines led by a second-half brace from Holland-based 18-year-old AZ Alkmaar winger Levi Garcia at the Arno Vale Sports Complex.
Myron Samuel put the host ahead just before the interval by converting a penalty awarded by Panamian referee Jose Kellys fter goalkeeper Marvin Phillip upended Derwin Ross in the 18-yard box after the burly attacker was put through on goal by speedy Seattle Sounders’ attacker, Oalex Anderson.
However, T&T drew level in the 58th minute when a Joevin Jones left-footed corner from the right was turned in past his own goalkeeper Lemus Christopher by defender Shemol Trimmingham.
Garcia, who replaced right-back Daneil Cyrus in the 62nd minute then put T&T 2-1 ahead in the 71st minute when he latches onto a headed on ball from captain Kenwyne Jones from a Phillip goal-kick, wrong-footed defender Akeem Williams, and blasted past Christopher on his near post, into the top corner of the goal.
St Vincent and The Grenadines drew level at 2-2 six minutes later when a long ball from Jarrel McMaster found Anderson who was retreating from an off-side position, and with no signal coming from the referee assistant, and T&T defenders Yohance Marshall and Justin Hoyte standing around, he slipped the ball across the goal for substitute Shandel Samuel to hit home from close range.
T&T then grabbed all three points when Hackshaw send a well weighted pass over the right side of the St Vincent and The Grenadines defence for the onrushing Garcia, who held off his marker and fired a left footer under Christopher for the 3-2 lead in the 82nd minute. With the victory, the Soca Warriors moved into sole possession of top spot in the pool with seven points from three matches, one more than Guatemala which blanked USA (four points) 2-0 in Guatemala City. St Vincent and The Grenadines, which T&T host on Tuesday at the Hasely Crawford Stadium, Mucurapo from 7pm is bottom of the pool without a point.
However, speaking after Friday’s win and reflecting on the team’s overall display, Hart said, “ I can’t accept this performance, but what I will say is that we fought our way back today (Friday) and got three points, and I know we can play much better.”
A former Canada national coach, the San Fernando-born Hart further explained, “We did not show our real purpose in closing down the ball, in pressing and our organisation between midfield and the backline was at times for me shocking”. “I did not recognise some of the things we were doing at all and there were too many gaps, too many spaces and once your realise a team is going to play direct balls against you, the objective is to stop them from playing that ball as early as possible and we did not.” “For me too many players didn’t show the sort of urgency to defend the way that they should have.”
Reflecting on the first 45-minutes,Hart said, “We had a lot of possession on the ball, got into good positions all over the field, but then we struggled to make the final pass or to cross the ball properly, or even just have that little impetus to get shots on goal.
“Then they scored on us first, and we are away from home, so we now found ourselves in a dog-fight to try and get the goal back.
With the host enjoying some space on the right side of the T&T defence guarded by the Justin Hoyte and Cyrus, a combination not normally used by Hart, the T&T coach said he felt his team adjusted well in the second-half.
“We adjusted because it happens sometimes when a player is not having their best game and losses some confidence. So we made the adjustments and the problem seemed to have been solved.
However, the T&T coach stayed clear of pointing the fingers at any player and instead said, “For me its was too many players, and not just about one or two. It was about the team and our attitude at times was wrong.
Responding to the performances of former Under-20 players Garcia, 18, and Hackshaw, 20, both of whom came on as substitutes coach Hart said: “It was a fantastic debut for young Levi (Garcia) to come on and score twice and Hackshaw also came in as well and made an immediate contribution and his pass for the winning goal to Garcia was a sort of text book pass, and then the run and finish by Garcia, and between the two of them they got us back into the game.”