Latapy's magic mutes Mexico

Irving Ward
Date Published: 
Trinidad Guardian

Russell LatapyRussell Latapy

TAKE that and cool it, Mexico!” “Take that and cool, it!”

The chant rang loud and clear around Port of Spain last night as fans celebrated Trinidad and Tobago skipper Russell Latapy and his squad’s historic 1-0 World Cup semi-final qualifying win over Mexico.

Only hours before this, those words had been jeers directed at the Mexicans as they limped off the Hasely Crawford Stadium turf with slumped shoulders, the victims of an 85th minute bullet from the Little Magician himself.

The Scotland-based midfielder unleashed a rocket of a right-footer from just outside the penalty area which gave Mexican keeper Jorge Campos absolutely no chance.

On its way towards goal, the ball curled wickedly and dipped just before nestling into the lower right-hand corner of Campos’ southern citadel, sending some 20,000 fans—bedecked in splendidly red—into tumultuous uproar.

Trinidad and Tobago skipper Russell Latapy (left) is congratulated by teammate Dwight Yorke, who laid on the pass, after scoring the winning goal against arch-rivals Mexico in the World Cup qualifying match at the Hasely Crawford Stadium yesterday.

These Yorke fans (below) show where their hearts lie.

Victory pushed Latapy’s squad to the top of the Football Confederation Zone’s Group C with a maximum six points from two games, having beaten Canada 2-0 last Sunday.

The conquered Central Americans meanwhile dropped to second spot with three points as the Canadians and Panama played to a goalless draw to earn their first points of the series in the other game yesterday.

T&T now not only has the top spot in the group but bragging rights over the Mexicans in World Cup qualifying competition.

Both teams have met twice and the Spanish speaking opposition are yet to taste victory. T&T’s first win came in 1973 when, led by a double from Everald “Gally” Cummings, they pounded four unanswered goals past Mexico in Haiti.

Yesterday, T&T needed just one item to stop them yet again.

But this win, against the number one ranked team in the region and the 13th overall in the world, may yet prove to be the tonic T&T needs to drive towards its first ever World Cup final.

Unfortunately, the three points did not come without a casualty as goal hero Latapy, who received a second yellow card in as many games, will now have to sit out the team’s next clash against Panama on August 16.

However, the Little Magician was not thinking about this after the game.

“I always score the big goals. I’ve scored many big goals, but this is one of the biggest, “ he told the Express before being whisked away by a swarm of red-clad fans.

And Latapy’s goal, his very first of the campaign, could not have come at a better time.

Pressured for long periods in a first half dominated by the visitors T&T kept the score sheet clean with tenacious defending and some brilliant keeping from Clayton Ince.

Then, in a second half in which they ran almost incessantly at the visitors, Latapy’s magical drive brought the deserving three-point reward.

[photo caption]
Defender Dennis Lawrence (below left) shields the ball from Mexican striker Luis Hernandez.

In the first session, the Mexicans had peppered Ince’s goal with shots as they showed from early on that they were not shy about shooting to goal.

But, despite this dominance, they only mustered two really good chances to break the deadlock.

In the 16th minute Ramon Ramirez put a right-footed free kick through two teammates, set inside T&T’s six-man wall and moving out of the way at the last moment, only to see Ince parry it around his left upright.

Then, in the 28th minute, Mexican striker Luis Hernandez probably thought he had the opener. Collecting a feed from Ramirez inside the six metre box, Hernandez feinted as if to hit a right footer, sending both Ansil Elcock and Shurland David the wrong way, then switched to his left foot. Fortunately for T&T, his effort was not as powerful as he would have liked and he could only watch on as Ince dived low to his left to muffle the effort.

David was injured in the play and replaced by former skipper Anthony Rougier who subsequently had a good game.

Whatever T&T coach Ian Porterfield told his squad at the interval worked for in the second half, they never let the Mexicans settle back into a rhythm.

And after Yorke, Latapy and Dennis Lawrence saw good efforts go just wide of Campos’ goal, the Little Magician mesmerised the Mexican keeper with one of his better tricks.