Holland-based teenager Levi Garcia came off the bench in the 62nd minute to score twice in 11 minutes as T&T Soca Warriors earned a come-from-behind 3�2 win over St Vincent and The Grenadines in their 2018 World Cup CONCACAF Semifinal Round qualifier yesterday.
With the win at the Arno Vale Ground, Kingstown, St Vincent and The Grenadines, the Soca Warriors moved into sole possession of top spot in the four-team pool with seven points from three matches, three more than USA which played away to third-placed Guatemala (three points) last night.
St Vincent and The Grenadines is bottom of the table without a point and little chance of advancing to the six-team final round qualification series which will involve the top two teams from the next two groups as well.
Playing on a very dry and bumpy surface the Kenwyne Jones-led Soca Warriors fell behind on the stroke of half-time when Myron Samuel converted a penalty past T&T goalkeeper Marvin Phillip, who was guilty of tripping David Pitt in the penalty area.
However, on the resumption, the Soca Warriors which had wasted few early first-half chances through Jones, got back on level terms when USA-based Joevin Jones' leftfooted corner from the right side was turned into his own goal by defender Shemol Trimmingham in the 58th minute.
The 18-year-old Santa Flora-born Garcia, who plies his trade with AZ Alkmaar in the Dutch Premier Division, was then summoned by coach Stephen Hart for defender Daneil Cyrus, and nine minutes later he made an impact, cutting in from the left flank to score and put T&T ahead 2�1 in the 71st minute.
But within six minutes, St Vincent and The Grenadines got back on level terms when a lapse in concentration from the T&T backline allowed an unmarked Anderson to centre for an equally free Shandel Samuel, formerly of the defunct Ma Pau in the T&T Pro League, to hit into an open net for a 2�2 score.
The youngest T&T player to make his national debut in quite some time, Garcia would have the last say in the match though, as with eight minutes left in the match, the former Shiva Boys' Hindu College standout, produced another cool finish past Christopher, after running onto a ball over the top from Joevin Jones, just inside the host half of the field for a 3�2 advantage.
The T&T squad held for the valuable three points and are a win away from booking its place in the CONCACAF Final Round six-team qualifiers.
The T&T squad will return home aboard a chartered Caribbean Airlines flight around 2.30 pm today ahead of their next match against the same St Vincent and The Grenadines squad at the Hasely Crawford Stadium, Mucurapo, from 7 pm on Tuesday night.