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T&T vs Iraq (23rd-May-2003)...
Mon May 24, 2004 09:06

Stern John sinks Iraq.
By Lasana Liburd.

Trinidad and Tobago striker Stern John had mixed emotions yesterday evening at the Hawthorns Stadium. John's double guided Trinidad and Tobago to a 2-0 win over Iraq and brought his international tally to within three strikes of the 50-goal mark.
But his expulsion for violently reacting to a crude Emad Aoda tackle contributed to a nervous closing 25 minutes for the Caribbean tourists.
"It was real uncharacteristic for me," said the Birmingham City striker. "I am disappointed with myself and I apologised to the guys after." It was a bittersweet afternoon for the men in red, white and black strip.
For the third time in four internationals since Bertille St Clair was appointed head coach in January, it was his assistant, Ron La Forest, who took charge after St Clair complained about feeling unwell.
La Forest, a former Joe Public and national youth team coach, also presided over a win and draw respectively away to Bermuda and was happy to maintain his good form on the bench.
"This victory means a lot for us," La Forest told the Trinidad Express, "because we are just getting our campaign started and it gives us something to carry forward."
In retrospect, the Iraqis were perfect opponents.
Purposeful, steady and blunt, the Middle Eastern outfit forced the "Soca Warriors" to work hard but lacked the quality to break them down.
Reports that the outing against T&T was their first since the United States invasion were wide of the mark.
Although their domestic competition is suspended, Iraq, who are ranked 43rd in the world, have already started their 2006 World Cup qualifying campaign and played three times this year including a 2-0 defeat to Japan in Tokyo.
Their under-23 squad has also booked a place in the 2004 Olympic Games.
Iraq started the match positively and striker Hussam Fawzi shot wide in the 12th minute following a Mahdi Karim through pass, which deceived T&T sweeper Ian Cox.
It was a rare error from the 33-year-old England-born central defender who made his debut four years ago under St Clair.
His agility and composure proved an adequate foil for the uncompromising Scotland-based defensive pair of Brent Sancho and Marvin Andrews.
At the interval, La Forest switched to a back four and pushed Cox into a defensive midfield role and the transition was seamless.
It was not nearly as fluent up front where John and North East Stars striker Jerren Nixon did not look as though they were in the same time zone let alone the same squad.
Still, the two strikers combined for the opener in the 30th minute.
A deft release from another returning veteran Arnold Dwarika, who now plays for Chinese club Beijing Guoan, sent Nixon clear and, as he dribbled Iraqi custodian Saad Nassir, the ball rolled obligingly for John to fire home.
There was a penalty shout, three minutes before the interval, when the Iraqis complained that Andrews used his arm to charge down an effort from Qusai Hashim.
But the Warriors never looked like conceding despite the vociferous backing of the Iraqi supporters who dwarfed the Caribbean contingent in the audience of 1,464 spectators.
Twenty minutes into the second half, John doubled the advantage with another clinical finish after a Dwarika pass.
Dwarika had joined John upfront by that stage as La Forest restructured the outfit at the interval.
New Southampton signing, Kenwyne Jones, replaced Nixon for his debut in central midfield-he got his first international taste under Hannibal Najjar-while England-born teenager Andre Bocaud also got his first cap after swapping places with the tidy Kerwyn Jemmott.
By then, La Forest had changed 3-5-2 to a 4-4-2 system that offered more security on either flank.
Then came John's rush of blood.
Referee Mark Halsey, an experienced English Premier League official, had already whistled for an infringement on the striker when he took matters into his own hands.
John insisted that he pushed Aoda in the chest although the defender grabbed his face and rolled as though he was punched.
La Forest responded to the setback by introducing lanky stopper Dennis Lawrence and bustling left back Marlon Rojas as T&T switched to five defenders to preserve their advantage.
At the final whistle, a satisfied La Forest and technical director Lincoln "Tiger" Phillips had few complaints.
"Obviously we are just building so we are not on top of our game just yet," said Phillips. "But I think we are improving We kept the ball more and I think our defence was quite good." He would hope to carry their form into their next outing against Scotland on May 30.

T&T Line-up:
Clayton Ince; Ian Cox, Marvin Andrews, Brent Sancho; Carlos Edwards, Stokely Mason (Dennis Lawrence 73rd); Angus Eve (capt-Marlon Rojas 86th), Kerwyn Jemmott (Andre Boucaud 61st), Arnold Dwarika; Jerren Nixon (Kenwyne Jones 46th), Stern John [Red Card 65th].

Iraq Line-up (3-5-2):
Nassir; Aoda, Obaid, Abbas; Karim, Khadim (Turki 78th), Munir, Hashim (Sadir 70th), Swadi; Fawzi (Farhan 78th) (Jawad HT), Manajid.

Iraq subs not used: Talib (GK), Abdul-Amir, Muhsin.
Up-Close with SW Online supporter: behind-the-bridge.

For someone who was in the Stadium on that fateful day in November 1989, it was good to finally see the guys win a game, but to be honest, Iraq was the better team. They passed better, tackled better and ran at our defence better. We had two attempts at goal, both fell to Stern and he scored them both. Both were sitters, the first from 6 yards out, after a pass from Nixon. The second was a one-on-one with the keeper, after an Iraqi defender gave the ball away to Stern just outside the box. Had the Iraqis had better finishers, they would have scored, because they created enough chances. Ince was by far the busier of the two keepers. He made 5 to 6 saves, although they were straight at him.
In my opinion, our defence is our strength. Andrews, Sancho and Cox all marshaled and controlled the defence well. Andrews was man-of-the-match for me. Not much passes him! Our midfield is the weak link. Eve, Edwards, and Dwarika lacked creatively, and loosed all the 50-50 challenges.
The result is a confidence booster, but it is a flattering score-line. Scotland won't waste as many chances that the Iraqis did. More improvement is needed from T&T, particularly in that midfield.
The Iraqis looked like they have been playing with each other for a longer period. Our guys lacked chemistry and understanding. This was evident by the many times that, Stern, Nixon, Eve and Dwarika kept gesticulating with each other, as to where to pass the ball.
Stern's Red card was thoroughly deserved. The Iraqi brought him down from behind and T&T won the free kick. But Stern retaliated and flawed the man with a right jab. So much for a 'friendly'. Iron Mike would have been proud of that jab.

My summary of each player:

Ince: Competent and did what was asked of him. 8/10

Andrews: Tackled well and bossed the defence. A bound-to must-in the line up. 9/10

Sancho: A much improved player to when I saw him 3 years ago. Complements Andrews well. 8/10

Cox: Played well with Sancho and Andrews. Reads the game very well. 8/10

Mason: The weakest player in the defence. Neededlessly gave the ball away a few times. 6/10

Eve: Lost the ball too often and seemed afraid to go for those 50-50 challenges. 7/10

Edwards: Got himself into some good positions on the right flank, but failed each time to deliver telling crosses. 7/10

Dwarika: Did not pass or link well with the front two. Gave the ball away too often. 7/10

Jemmott: Was anonymous for most of the game, until he was substituted in the second half. 6/10

Nixon: Played the first half. Looked sluggish and also gave the ball away when it seemed easier to pass to Stern. 6/10

Jones: Came on for Nixon. This guy looks good. Tackled and passed better than the others. He came on as a forward, but was also back defending. 8/10

John: Two attempts at goal and scored both of them. A pity we could not get the ball to him more often. I think he would scored more if we did. Definitely looks quality. His sending off spoilt his performance. 8/10

Lawrence: Came on the left side of the defence for Mason, but looked clumsy and out of position. For a defender, he still has to learn to tackle. He was later switched to central defence and he looked a bit better. 7/10

There were also two other subs. One was Rojas ? and the other was number 19, but I dont know his name. Might have been Boucaud. They did not really make an impact.

The T&T supporters numbered about 50, out of the 1500. Included in that 50, was the steelband players, 'Jack' and Glenda Morean-Phillips. We will be even more out-numbered against Scotland, but I'll be there again to cheer the boys on!

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