Trinidad and Tobago made it back-to-back quarter-final appearances at the CONCACAF Gold Cup, courtesy of their 2-0 victory over Cuba in Arizona on Sunday.
First-half goals to Sheldon Bateau and Andre Boucaud set up the victory for Stephen Hart’s men, taking them to six points in two matches – and seeing them make it back-to-back quarter-final appearances at CONCACAF’s championship for the first time since the knockout-stage format was introduced.
Picking up where they left off in Group C, Trinidad and Tobago looked dangerous going forward at the University of Phoenix Stadium – and their team balance was on show with their first five goals of the tournament coming from four different sources.
Granted, coach Hart left out Cordell Cato from his starting XI after he had scored in their 3-1 win over Guatemala – while Khaleem Hyland, who put in an assist that game, was also on the bench.
Against the demoralised Cubans, who were downed 6-0 by Mexico in a flattering scoreline to open their tournament, it was Bateau who powered home their first goal again – the centre-back making it two in two.
After Cuba’s wall blocked a 17th-minute free-kick, a long ball back into the box was controlled by Lester Peltier, and while the forward’s poke on goal was kept out by Disovelis Guerra, Bateau was on hand to smash home into the unguarded net.
Boucaud made it 2-0 shortly before half-time, with Cuba’s partial clearance from Daneil Cyrus’ long throw into the area struck back with interest by the England-born midfielder.
As against Guatemala, Joevin Jones was making a nuisance of himself down the left side of the park – drawing the first yellow card of the match out of referee David Gantar’s pocket when Adrian Diz Pe brought down the wing-back in the 16th minute.
Joevin’s namesake, captain Kenwyne Jones, almost created the opener moments earlier with some fine touches inside the area, and after the Cardiff City man was closed down the ball fell to Ataullah Guerra – whose shot was deflected out for a corner.
Cuba did their utmost to play on the break, and even tried creating via possession, but ultimately the class difference proved stark.
Raul Valentin’s men did come close to pulling a goal back in the shadows of half-time – Maikel Reyes denied from point blank range by Jan-Michael Williams, who came off his line to smother the chance.
Reyes’ effort did injure Williams, however, forcing him to be stretchered off with an apparent left leg injury, and bringing on substitute Marvin Phillip for little over a half.
Phillip’s goal was largely untroubled in the second half, as the Trinidadians completed another impressive result.