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T&T earns CONCACAF Hexagonal berth
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Trinidad & Tobago's Joevin Jones (red jersey) scored two goals in a World Cup Qualifying draw with visiting Guatemala on September 2, 2016, in Port of Spain. (Photo: Caribbean Action Images)

PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad & Tobago -- Joevin Jones and Carlos Ruiz scored twice for their respective sides as Trinidad & Tobago advanced to the final round of CONCACAF qualifying for the 2018 FIFA World Cup Qualifying, while 10-man Guatemala kept faint hope alive in a dramatic 2-2 draw on Friday.

Three minutes before Ruiz’s 87th-minute equalizer for Guatemala, teammate Cristian Jimenez was sent off at Hasely Crawford Stadium for pulling down Jones on a clear goal-scoring opportunity.

Had Jones completed the hat-trick, it would’ve sealed victory for the Soca Warriors (3W-2D-0L, 11 points) and eliminated the visiting Guatemalans (2-1-2, 7).

Instead, Ruiz pounced upon a rebound of Marco Pappa’s dipping effort to score his second goal of the evening and his third of the Russia 2018 campaign.

Guatemala still has a lot of work to do on the final day of Group C play Tuesday to have any hope of advancing. It has to defeat visiting St. Vincent & the Grenadines, while Trinidad & Tobago must beat the host United States (3-1-1, 10). Then goal difference will come into play with the U.S. currently holding a sizeable +13 to +1 advantage.

T&T can capture the group with a win or a draw.

After a promising opening for the Central Americans, Ruiz put Guatemala ahead in the 36th minute.

Jimenez provided the service, latching onto a pass down the right and sending in a first-time cross that skidded across a wet field and toward the back post. Ruiz slid to redirect it home from close range.

The Soca Warriors responded with more offensive pressure, twice coming close to scoring before Jones leveled things in first-half stoppage time.

On an odd-man break, Daneil Cyrus whipped in a cross from the right. Jones held his run to stay onside and met the service 10 yards from goal, where he sent a low finish between the legs of charging goalkeeper Paolo Motta.

Jones gave T&T the lead in the 62nd minute, getting free on the left side of the penalty area and cutting back to elude Jimenez, before poking a left-footed effort beyond Motta’s dive.

Four minutes later, T&T goalkeeper Marvin Phillips made a pair of acrobatic saves to keep his side in the lead. But 20 minutes after that, his failure to corral Pappa’s initial shot from near the edge of the penalty area gave Ruiz the room he needed for his second.

 
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