Reach Caribbean Cup final through shootout
"God is good. I think this final is ours on Sunday," stated midfielder Densill Theobald. "We feel elated. We are in the final after five years. This is a best feeling."
First Gold Cup qualification, now Trinidad and Tobago's Soca Warriors will contest tomorrow's final of the 2012 Caribbean Cup after scoring a 5-4 semi-final victory on kicks from the penalty mark over Martinique last night at the Antigua Recreation Ground.
The match was deadlocked 1-1 after extra-time and decided in the penalty shootout, where T&T goalkeeper Jan Michael Williams saved the fifth spot kick from Martinique's Frederick Piquionne, who plays for English Premier League team West Ham United.
It was a dramatic T&T comeback at the ARG.
The Soca Warriors looked on the verge of defeat, but rallied through a 90th minute Richard Roy equaliser to get a 1-1 regulation time draw against the French Caribbean outfit. Thirty minutes of extra-time also failed to separate two teams that were equally matched.
Martinique were up 1-0 and holding on in the final seconds, when Roy broke the offside trap and hit a low shot across the Martinique keeper Emmanuel Vermignon and inside the far post. Joy for T&T, but anguish for the Martiniquans who argued that the T&T striker netted from an offside position.
The match was very tight and tactical. But although the Soca Warriors were unable to create clear chances, they were well in the match, until the 76th minute when former French League 2 player Kevin Pasemain gave Martinique what looked a decisive lead.
Naturally, the semi-finalists played a cautious first half.
Goalkeepers were largely untested, although Martinique custodian Vermignon had to be alert in the 41st minute, pushing the ball over for a corner-kick after T&T midfielder Ataullah Guerra dangerously headed on a corner towards goal. Martinique's Steve Gustan was also quite busy, but unable to get a clear crack at the Trinidad and Tobago goal.
Battling the skilled Frenchmen for midfield, T&T were forced many times to punt the ball long to isolated striker Jorsling in the first half. But the Soca Warriors made some adjustments early in the second period, getting Guerra closer to Jorsling. They also began knitting their passes together. Consequently, Martinique, began using the long ball exclusively. But, the Frenchmen had a trick up their sleeves. They had left off both starting strikers, and only brought on West Ham United attacker Piquionne and Kevin Parseman 23 minutes into the second half.
And the French substitutions soon paid dividends when Parsemain netted a brilliant individual goal to give Martinique the lead.
Racing up the left, Parsemain froze defender Seon Power, then turned the ball onto his right foot and beat Williams with a powerful shot.
Martinique seemed to have done their homework on the T&T team, bringing on their best attackers at a time when the T&T players usually began walking. Consequently, Martinique were able to get a couple of chances, first Power having to clear a low shot off the line, then in the 80th, Piquionne hit a low drive which keeper Williams turned around the post.
However, Trinidad and Tobago also had an ace to play. They brought on strikers Jamal Gay and Roy late in the match, with the latter eventually pulling the Soca Warriors level.
With the momentum going their way, T&T began the 30 minute extra-time period well, and went close when Guerra set up Molino, whose hot, low shot was blocked in the penalty area, while Picquionne also went close for Martinique.
It finally took a shootout to separate these teams. And there, T&T proved themselves the true warriors.