Trinidad and Tobago came away with a scoreless draw with hosts Belize in an encounter that saw both teams create but fail to put away their scoring chances at the FFB Stadium in Belmopan on Saturday night.
The friendly international, which was used as a CONCACAF Gold Cup tune up for the two teams, would have left both sides cautiously optimistic after avoiding defeat, but saw the visitors unable to beat the Central Americans at that venue for a second time, as the teams also battled to a 0-0 draw under then coach Russell Latapy in 2010.
Four of T&T's 2006 World Cup players started together for the first time in over three years, with Kenwyne Jones and Cornell Glen used up front and Christopher Birchall and captain Densill Theobald in the midfield. Keon Daniel also made a return to the starting line up and connected well with Joevin Jones on the left for T&T and caused their opponents some problems, particularly in the opening half.
T&T, who travelled to Lima, Peru yesterday, where they will face the hosts tomorrow, made the better start and could have been comfortably ahead inside the first 20 minutes on a bumpy service that affected the fluidity of both team's play. A good volleyed effort from Glen went wide of the right post from the edge of the box after the Belize goalkeeper superbly blocked a header from his own defender and two minutes later the former Columbus Crew forward again went close.
Jones also got in the act, but could probably have done better with his effort in the 16th minute as his weak header caused no problems for the goalie Woodrow West. But he combined well with Glen, knocking one down for him only to have his partner blast wide.
Belize settled only after the half hour mark and did not impress on any of their few looks at goal before the half time break. They did however cause a scare for T&T when Portland Timers striker Deon McCauley dragged his shot inches wide of the left post from a point blank position inside the penalty box. It was about the best chance on goal for Belize for the 90 minutes as T&T 'keeper Cleon John had a relatively decent time in goal in his first full appearance for T&T.
Birchall brought drive to the midfield and was accurate in his passing, later being complimented by head coach Jamaal Shabazz for his efforts in the 90 minutes. The Port Vale player had a decent crack at goal which went wide in the 41st.
Belize came to life in the second half and got their 3,000-odd fans behind them.
Newcomers Marcus Joseph and Jason Marcano got some playing time midway through the second half at the expense of Jones and Kevon Carter, who struggled to make an impact on the right flank. Darren Mitchell also made his first entry into international football late in the match.
Devorn Jorsling, after coming on in the 75th minute, was ejected eleven minutes later for retaliating to a rash tackle by Tyrone Pandy. Belizean referee Irfan Basdemir also issued a red card to Pandy.
Jones missed another header in the second half, while substitute Keyon Edwards forced West to save on his left post with a low drive from outside the box.
Marcano headed wide from a left side cross and Belize survived goalmouth scramble in their six-yard box two minutes from time and a goal line clearance much to the relief of their home fans as T&T pressed late in search of a winner.
For tomorrow's match against Peru, Jorsling is suspended, while Daniel has to return home to renew his US work visa. No replacements have been called up for those players.
T&T – 22. Cleon John, 3. Joevin Jones, 4. Curtis Gonzales, 6. Daneil Cyrus, 7. Chris Birchall, 9. Kenwyne Jones, (8. Jason Marcano, 66') 13. Cornell Glen (10. Devorn Jorsling, 75'), 14. Kevon Carter (12. Marcus Joseph, 66'), 17. Keon Daniel (15. Darren Mitchell, 88'), 18. Densill Theobald (16. Keyon Edwards, 75'), 19. Carlyle Mitchell
Did not play – Marvin Phillip, Kareem Moses
Belize – 1. Woodroy West, 10. Harrison Roches, 16. Floyd Jones (14. Andres Makin, 61'), 6. Evan Mariano (19. Harrison Tasher, 84'), 7. Ian Gaynair, 9. Deon McCauley (5. Lennox Castillo, 90')23. Tyrone Pandy, 3. Trevor Lennon, 18. Evral Trapp, 13. Dalton Eiley, 12.