The diehard fans at the Dwight Yorke Stadium Wednesday night saw best of the Soca Warriors and the worst; all in 90 minutes of football.
But Trinidad and Tobago senior football team head coach Hutson Charles at least has something to build upon: a point gained from a disappointing 1-1 draw against St Vincent & the Grenadines in the opening Caribbean Cup Group Six qualifier in Tobago.
Tonight T&T play a second qualifier against Suriname from 8 p.m. at the same venue and need full points against the Dutch team to stay in qualifying contention. It will not be a straightforward assignment since the Surinamese looked more dangerous than was suggested by a 5-0 loss to Cuba in the opening match Wednesday. Cuban striker Marcel Hernandez sizzled, scoring four goals.
"I was really disappointed in the performance because of lack of effort," Charles declared of the T&T performance, while saying he expect better against Suriname tonight.
"Suriname is a good team. We can't take them lightly. We can't be complacent because if we give them room to play they will play."
The Soca Warriors were terrors in the first quarter hour on Wednesday night. They led early, Devon Jorsling beating goalkeeper Kenyan Lynch in just the third minute, after taking a Kevon Carter pass.
Jorsling and midfielder Hughtun Hector also hit the crossbar, the latter's effort almost producing a gem of a goal, after he had swung a speculative shot across goal onto the edge of the cross bar.
Lynch also blocked Carter's free shot at goal, Seon Power missed a free header and easy dribbler Atullah Guerra broke through a couple times but the SVG custodian easily read his exaggerated, well-telegraphed shots to the back post.
Had these clear chances gone in, SVG would have been finished. But, T&T relaxed, their opponents recovered and later grew confident. After two attacks on the T&T goal, SVG were level at 1-1 in the 24th minute, Myron Samuel scoring after taking a chip from strike partner Cornelius Stewart.
The Soca Warriors had more and better chances, even down to the final minute when overlapping central defender Seon Power and out-of-sorts winger Carter forced spectacular blocks from SVG goalie Lynch. And abandoning defence, Power almost had the winner in added-on time, his powerful shot just curling outside of the back post at the very last second.
In between, St Vincent and the Grenadine defended in numbers and counter-attacked explosively, forcing a few saves from T&T keeper Jan Michael Williams and many edgy moments for the spectators, among them former T&T coach Bertille St Clair, technical director Anton Corneal, new TTFF president Raymond Tim Kee, as well as T&T Pro League personalities David John Williams (W Connection), Jerry Moe (Caledonia AIA) and Brent Sancho.
The great teams like Spain, Brazil, Germany and Holland defend with as many as eight players these days, but the Soca did so with maybe three sometimes.
They must be super footballers.
Charles is not the first local coach to believe midfield work consists solely of possessing the ball. Pressing the opponents as a team and winning back the ball seemed a foreign concept.
He needed more robust work from his midfield, but most looked for defensive midfielder Clyde Leon alone to do the work. None took ownership of the job of stopping SVG breezing through them and exposing the back four to the raw pace of Vincey attackers Myron Samuel and Caledonia AIA winger Stewart.
Most times, Guerra, Carter, Hector and Densil Theobald remained upfield, while Clyde Leon was left to defend the middle.
"I though our guys lacked effort,"Charles said. "I think one of our strengths is midfield, and I think we didn't see that. I thought my guys in the midfield did not perform to their full potential."
Charles agreed that T&T's saving grace were goalkeeper Williams, his overworked defenders and Theobald, who did excellent work going forward.
He would not have been proud of the seemingly uninterested Carter or lone striker Jorsling who appeared to fall down with every slight breeze, begging Jamaican ref Courtney Campbell for help.
"I commend my goalkeeper (Jan Michael Williams), the back four (Carlyle Mitchell (centre-back), Sean Power, Curtis Gonzales (right-back), Joevin Jones (left-back) and Densil Theobald. I think they performed. I must give plenty cudos to Power. I think he had a tremendous game, and if the rest of the guys gave more of that, it will be very good for us in the future."
Meanwhile SVG coach Cornelius Huggins was a happy man.
"I want to congratulate my players on a well-deserved performance," Huggins said. "Our game plan was once they (T&T) had the ball, we keep a shape and play more defensively and once we win the ball, we will counter attack."
CFU GROUP SIX RESULTS:
CUBA 5 (Marcel Hernandez 6, 36, 62, 89 Ariel Martinez 46), SURINAME 0
TRINIDAD AND TOBAGO 1 (Devorn Jorsling 3), ST VINCENT AND THE GRENADINES 1 (Myron Samuel 24)