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Andre Samuel up close. (PAN/T&T).
Mon Jun 6, 2005 07:28
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Andre Samuel's Report on PAN.

Well fellaz, we did it, and now we have much to look forward to in the few weeks to come. The stadium was nice, de vibe was sweet, and every thing looked set for what would be a very good evening for Trinidad and Tobago.

Without a ball being kicked we had trouble in de Trini camp. I heard that Clayton Ince damaged his hand during the warm ups and Kelvin Jack had to start (good thing it wasn’t Williams). Beehakker restored the twin towers in the back line with Atiba Charles on de right and Avery John on de left! The diamond shaped midfield had Whitley in de back, Birchall in de front, Carlos on de right, and Theobald on de left. Up front were ex premiership players Dwight Yorke and Stern John.

“At first I was afraid….I was petrified” since the warriors started tentatively, and allowed too much room for the Panamanians to move around. They took advantage of this space and dominated the first 15 minutes, but had nothing besides ball possession to show for it. Our defense stood firm and denied them any space in the final third. A worrying factor for me in the first 15-20 minutes was the absence of our “newly learnt” short passing game and the return of Bertille’s boom kick football tactics (i.e. kick it out and hope that Stern John or Dwight could chest trap it). Yorke was fighting hard from the word go, and Birchall had a shot from outside the box straight the keeper, but there seemed to be a total absence of rhythm from the Warriors.

Then something amazing happened, Mr. Whitley decided to get into the game! His decision to abandon all the fears he might have had for his first big game for Trinidad in a while paid rich dividends for our team. The fluency returned, and Beenhakker’s brilliance replaced Bertille’s bullshit. Within 3 minutes of Whitley’s involvement, the warriors created their first clear cut chance, and what a chance it was! New Luton Town signing Carlos Edwards was released down the right flank after some good work by Whitley and Yorke, and he sent a pin point accurate cross at the feet of Stern “miss ten and score one” John who shaped up in text book fashion and “placed” it wide!

After that I got an instant headache, so I decided to calm my head by looking at some of the beautiful women who were “modeling” up and down the place! Why these chances eh fall to Yorke? How could he miss that? Bermuda was one thing but oh gard!! This is ah big game!! It was at this point (I must admit), that I begun to lose hope! I turned to Cowen and told him that “Stern John just kicked our world cup chances wide”. Even though Stern missed the sitter (it was more like ah “lying down-er”), de Warriors were still playing well and had the Panamanians on the back foot. Whitley was coming for de ball, and Birchall, Carlos, and Theobald were giving him options.

At minute 33 a huge weight was lifted off my shoulder, Stern John (who had me anxious to go home so ah could take him off as meh screen saver) hooked a Dwight Yorke pass into the back of the net while under serious pressure from a defender. One Nil, and is madness in de Stadium! Ah start tuh jump, ah start tuh wave, ah start tuh wine, meh horn spoil, and ah get some beers in meh face, but that was no problem cause we in de lead! We went close on two more occasions but at that point everyone was hoping that we get into half time without conceding anything!

HALF TIME: TT-1 v PANAMA-0

Panama came out hungry at the start of the second half but full credit to our defenders who played to their strengths and did the basic things right. Panama had a two cracker shots on goal. The first was a swerving rocket that had a blinded Jack going one way but he had the presence of mind to adjust and parry/push the ball away, and the other was a dipping volley that Jack acrobatically pushed over bar. In between those two shots Stern had time to miss another easy goal scoring opportunity by deciding to trap and cut back rather than hitting it one time! We were soaking in some pressure but with 20 minutes to go we could smell the three points!

At that very moment, a Panamanian attack was broken up by Lawrence who composed himself and played the ball to an open Stern John (some say it was Dwight Yorke), and started to run and never stopped. Within a heartbeat, a beauty of a ball was played to his feet and it became Dennis Lawrence against Panama keeper Donald Gonzales, with a retrieving defender playing catch up.

The lanky defender, ran towards the goal, faked a shot with his right foot, sent de defender, de keeper and the rest ah de stadium one way, cut onto his left, and slotted the ball into the back of the net with all the calm in the world! Arsenal's Thierry Henry couldn’t have done it better himself! If de first goal brought madness to the stadium, then the second goal brought total pandemonium!! Ah start back tuh jump, ah start back tuh wine, ah start back tuh wave, meh horn fall down and some more beer fall on meh face (it tasted like carlsberg…lol). The last time I felt like this was when Latas scored against Mexico in de 86th minute!

At this point an angry looking Stern John was substituted and rising star kenwyne Jones was brought on. Jones showed that he was waiting to come on long time by getting into the mix right away and received a yellow card from the referee and a strict talking to by captain Yorke for his efforts. He eventually decided to make waves in a different manner and should have had our third with a blistering volley on de run that shaved the outside of the post.

Ten minutes to go and the warriors knew that the three points were close and from then on, we defended like crazy!! TWEEET, TWEEET, TWEEET!!!!!! Game done and 3 points in the bag! Now it’s on to Mexico!!

Ah reach dey bout minutes tuh six, ah get ah free horn tuh blow, ah bottle opener fuh beers (even though no glass bottles allowed), and ah seat cushion!

The uncovered stands not so bad after all, AND DE LIME IN ST JAMES WAS SWEET. PAN FUH SO!

PLAYER RATINGS:

JACK – 7.5 – made two great saves, but was a bit hesitant in coming for the ball. Didn’t make his presence felt in the box!

ANDREWS – 7.5 – had a quiet, but efficient game, didn’t make any mistakes and won all there was to be won in the air.

CHARLES – 7.5 – was quick enough to stay with his man and linked with carlos very well. Good going forward too

A.JOHN – 8 – was limping after 25 minutes in this game but gave a brave performance, didn’t pass the ball well but more importantly, no one passed him!!

LAWRENCE – 8.5 – surprised everyone with that finish. He was our best defender on the night also. He actually jumped and headed balls away!

THEOBALD – 6.5 – took a while to adjust to his position on the left but came into his own and got better as the game progressed.

WHITLEY – 7 – this man is a gem once in full cry. Has the ability to ease pass defenders while still having the eye for the clinical pass. He took too long to get into the game.

EDWARDS – 8.5 – twisted, turned and swayed past the left back tonight, one of his better games, needs to work on his crossing, but a great display on de wing!

BIRCHALL – 8 – Excellent debut, excellent find, promising future. He ran like a warrior tonight, and I am totally impressed. He is an under-rated passer.

YORKE – 9 – my man of the match, with Edwards and Lawrence coming close. Excellent display of leadership!

S. JOHN – 6.5 – would have gotten 5.5 if he didn’t score, strangely enough, he was upset that he was subbed, and went into the dressing room while all the other players were still on the field thanking the crowd. He still has to start, but ah like how he got subbed.

K. JONES – N/A – came on and won the balls in the air and gave the team an injection of energy.

Ah hope alyuh enjoy de read!

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