COUVA.- Trinidad and Tobago secured first place in Group C of the CONCACAF Caribbean Women's Qualifiers with a business-like 13-0 victory over Grenada in Sunday's final group match at the Ato Boldon Stadium in Couva, Trinidad.
Needing to win by at least six goals to finish ahead of second-placed St Kitts and Nevis and which had earlier beaten US Virgin Islands 7-0 to keep their chances of advancing very much alive, the hosts came out with all guns blazing and went into the half-time interview already ahead by six goals to nil.
Seventeen-year-old forward Alliyah Prince, in her first start of the competition, led the way with a hattrick, scoring in the 43rd, 88th and 90th minutes while there were double strikes from captain Tasha St Louis in the 42nd and 92nd minute along with Jonelle Cato in the 45th and 54th.Janine Francois in the 51st and 80th and Mariah Shade in the 33rd and 82nd minutes.
T&T got things going with a 10th-minute opening item through Kedie Johnson whose angled drive into the far corner of the net left the Grenada goalkeeper with no chance and the hosts never looked back in front of a lively home crowd. Jenelle Cunningham then made it 2-0 in the 13th minute as the home team signaled their intentions from early on.
T&T head coach Jamaal Shabazz later credited his players for taking care of business and completing their first mission which was to advance to the final stage of the CONCACAF Caribbean qualifiers.
"God is greatest. Credit to the girls. They had a task ahead of them and they never disbelieved. We always believed we would finish on top of the group and we did. There were some up moments and down moments and I think we can take away a lot from this tournament," Shabazz said.
"Probably I was more nervous than them (players). They never doubted their capabilities and credit to them. They have a deep desire to go forward and they demonstrated to that. They kept going forward even after we had ten goals," the T&T head coach added.
Prince also felt T&T rose to the occasion on Sunday night.
"It is always an honor to represent your country. I worked really hard to get onto the starting team and I felt really good to be able to contribute tonight with the three goals," Prince told CONCACAF.com.
"More is expected of me as a junior player as more work is required of me to make the step up and I think I was able to show that. I always go the extra mile to make my mom and my family proud as they are always the one supporting me. Now we'll continue to prepare and try to go as far as possible," Prince added.
St Kitts and Nevis meantime bowed out of the qualifiers despite remaining unbeaten after four games in Group C. Phoenicia Browne led their scoring with three goals in the 27th, 38th and 52nd minutes. Arielle Fernandez chipped in with an item in the 46th while Lavern Francis netted in the 57th, Caroline Springer in the 70th and Cloy Uddenberg in the 83rd all contributed to the final tally.
St Kitts head coach Earl Jones felt his team could have won the match by a bigger margin.
"Sometimes football goes this way. We won 7-0 but it was left to be seen how Trinidad did in their job. The game is played on the day," Jones told CONCACAF.com.
"The goals presented themselves for the girls but unfortunately today was not our best day in terms of finishing. Regardless of the outcome, we have an excellent programme and we will continue with it. A couple years ago we could not compete with teams like Trinidad and Jamaica and now we were able to come here and hold Trinidad 1-1 and really push them to the end. This is a big improvement for us and we'll be looking to keep building," Jones added.
T&T advances now to the final round of the Caribbean qualifiers that will take place from August 25 to September 2 at a venue to be named. Cuba (Group A) and Jamaica (Group B) have already booked their tickets to the final round.
The top three teams in the final round will qualify for the 2018 Concacaf Women's Championship from October 4 to 17 in the United States. Group A will be played in Cary, North Carolina, while Group B will be played in Edinburg, Texas.
The final stage will take place in Frisco, Texas, and the top three teams will qualify as representatives of Concacaf for the 2019 FIFA Women's World Cup in France. Concacaf's fourth-placed finisher will engage in an intercontinental playoff against a country from Conmebol, the Confederation of South America for a final qualifying spot in France.