Trinidad & Tobago Write Footballing History as They Qualify for the World Cup For the First Time
BAHRAIN (From FIFAWorldCup.com)-Trinidad and Tobago are through to the FIFA World Cup™ finals for the first time in their history after a Dennis Lawrence header earned Leo Beenhakker's men a famous 1-0 victory in Bahrain.
"We have to keep believing in our chances. There's no reason why we shouldn't put ourselves in a position to reach our goal Trinidad and Tobago skipper Dwight Yorke prophetically declared ahead of the decisive clash at the Manama stadium in Bahrain.
The 1-1 draw in the first leg afforded Bahrain the luxury of playing a waiting game in front of their home crowd. The team under boss Peruzovic began cautiously relying on their outstanding defensive line to maintain a clean sheet in the knowledge a goalless draw would be enough to seal a first-ever place at the FIFA World Cup finals.
Trinidad and Tobago were unwilling to risk everything in an all-out attacking effort at first and the sides cancelled each other out during a cagey opening phase. The first opening fell to Mohamed Hubail but his eighth minute effort following a corner failed to penetrate a forest of legs in the box.
The visitors' first shot at goal arrived on 13 minutes but Christopher Birchall Trinidad and Tobago's first white player in 60 years saw his drive blocked. Unfortunately Birchall contrived to injure himself in the process and was replaced a short time later by Silvio Spann.
Trinidad and Tobago upped the tempo midway through the half with Dwight Yorke a constant menace in and around the penalty area although clear-cut chances were few and far between.
The crowd held its collective breath on the half-hour when Stern John was left with only keeper Hussein Ali Hassan to beat following Kenwyne Jones' flicked header but the shot-stopper raced from his line to narrow the angle and deflect the striker's shot round the post.
Despite the home side's increasingly defensive tactics Bahrain almost took the lead when visiting keeper Kelvin Jack totally misjudged an up-and-under into the box. Fortunately for Jack Marvin Andrews was covering on the line and headed clear of the danger zone in one of the scant memorable incidents of the first period.
The hosts made the better start to the second half but Hubail narrowly failed to connect from close range on 48 minutes after a diagonal ball into the box. Trinidad and Tobago raced up the other end and won a corner curled straight onto Lawrence's forehead by Yorke. The defender's header evaded a sea of bodies and landed in the net sparking an outbreak of delirious celebration from coach Beenhakker and his team. John might have wrapped things up just a minute later but Hassan proved equal to the striker's angled drive.
The game now assumed a totally different character to the first 45 minutes as Bahrain poured forward in search of salvation while the visitors pursued a second goal to make the game safe.
A string of chances followed at both ends of the park. Ahmed Hassan hit the side-netting with a 62nd minute free-kick and Lawrence almost turned villain with a 77th minute clearance dangerously close to his own goal. The men from the Caribbean came close to doubling the advantage on several occasions. Jones' first-time drive on 73 minutes proved an easy take for the keeper before sub Russell Latapy declined a glorious opportunity six minutes later with a shot against the crossbar.
Bahrain coach Peruzovic threw the dice one last time with a four-man front line for the frantic closing stages but the Trinidadians held out with a mixture of skill and good fortune to emerge triumphant from a breathless finale in which Hussain Ali Baba was given his marching orders.