A brilliant second-half strike forced Trinidad and Tobago to share the points in a 1-1 draw with minnows Puerto Rico, while low-ranked Montserrat stunned Central American giants El Salvador with a late goal to earn a point in another 1-1 stalemate, in the opening round of CONCACAF qualifiers for the 2020 FIFA World Cup on Sunday.
Playing in Group F at the Mayagüez Athletics Stadium, T&T was lucky to escape to the half-time break without conceding after Puerto Rico missed a plethora of chances to get on the scoresheet.
However, things changed quickly in the second half as Joevin Jones put the visitors ahead in the 54th minute from close range.
Canada-born Ryan Telfer swung a left-sided cross into the box where Levi Garcia won a headed challenge for Jones to slot in from six yards.
Garcia came close to doubling his side’s advantage soon after when his curling corner hit the far post but Puerto Rico, ranked 76 spots below T&T in the FIFA rankings at 179th, then hit back in the 72nd minute through substitute Ricardo Rivera.
On the field for only 10 minutes, the 23-year-old wrapped his head around Raul Gonzales’s pinpoint cross into the box to beat goalkeeper Nicklas Frenderup from close range.
The result left T&T second in the group on four points behind St Kitts and Nevis who have won their opening two matches.
There was also an upset of sorts in Group A where captain Lyle Taylor struck in the 89th minute to steal a share of the honors for the 183rd ranked Montserrat, ranked 113 spots lower than El Salvador in the world rankings.
David Rugamas put El Salvador ahead at the Ergilio Hato Stadium in Curacao when he got onto a clinical through ball and scored with a deft finish to the keeper’s left.
But unable to add to the scoreline, El Salvador was punished with the game’s end in sight when Taylor, who plays for Nottingham Forest in England’s Championship division, produced a superb glancing header from Jamie Allen’s cross.
The result was the second straight draw for Montserrat and it left them third in the group while El Salvador is second on four points, behind Antigua and Barbuda also on four points but ahead courtesy of a super goal difference.
In Group D, substitute Audel Laville’s brilliant long-range equalizer against the run of play left Dominica dreaming at 1-1 in the 82nd minute but Jose Fajardo Torres, a first-half substitute, scored three minutes later to hand Panama a 2-1 win at the Estadio Olímpico Félix Sánchez in Santo Domingo.
In the other game played, Curacao beat Cuba 2-1 at the Mateo Flores Stadium in Guatemala City, with all three goals coming in the first half of the Group C contest.