A 90th-minute + goal made the difference in Antigua and Barbuda getting past Barbados 1-nil in a CONCACAF Nations League encounter, played at the Daren Sammy Cricket Grounds [DSCG], on Thursday.
From the onset, the opposing sides went head to head in a tight and thrilling match. And while the Antiguans pushed up aggressively in the opening minutes, they also had to contend with some tense moments as the Bajans got within firing line of the target.
Shavorn Phillip scored in stoppage time from close range inside the box to help his team savour a hard-fought victory over the Bajans.
While Thursday’s game was scoreless for 90 minutes, it was hardly devoid of scoring opportunities for both teams.
The keepers had their workload cut out and performed remarkably well to execute some fantastic saves and deny the opposing strikers – as the game flowed with lots of chances that saw good attacks on both ends.
Antigua and Barbuda custodian Nick Townsend ended the night with four saves, while Barbados counterpart Kishmar Primus was credited with the same number.
In the second half, Antigua looked to the bench to help break the deadlock, and it was substitute Ashley Nathaniel George that ran onto a ball that had been flicked forward by a teammate looking to find someone in the box. His cross was deflected, but Philip finished it off to change what looked like a scoreless draw into a win for the ‘Benna Boys’.
Earlier, Barbados forward, Tajio James missed a chance near the hour mark, shooting wide; while Townsend had work to do as well in the 83rd minute, stopping a point-blank effort from Niall Reid-Stephen.
Townsend had to lie low to stop defender Andre Applewhaite from finding a winner as the fullback dashed through in the 86th minute; and then in the 89th minute. Primus denied the Antiguan mid-fielder, Thomas James Bramble from a header on goal, as the sliding goalkeeper used his feet to send the ball out of danger.
The encounter was the first game of League B of Group A of the Concacaf Nations League, hosted at the DSCG. The teams return to action on June 5, with Barbados traveling to Cuba and Antigua and Barbuda hosting Guadeloupe.
Two more games are down to be played at the DSCG; Barbados vs. Guadeloupe on June, 9, while St Lucia will host Anguilla, on June, 12.
Meanwhile, St Lucia’s ‘Piton Boyz’ prepare to compete in an away game versus Dominica, on June, 9; before returning home to take on Anguilla, on June, 12.
Commenting on the staging of matches at the DSCG, President of the St Lucia Football Association [SLFA] Inc. Lyndon Cooper told reporters it has taken six months to prepare for the tournament.
He said that due to the Covid-19 pandemic, health protocols will be adhered to for patrons attending the matches with a limited amount of ticket sales on purchase.
Cooper explained that 5,000 spectators including officials will be allowed into the DSCG for St Lucia’s home game on June, 12.
Upon returning from playing two friendlies in Trinidad and Tobago (T& T), the St Lucia team will be in camp from June 3 to 13. An SLFA official reported that the ‘Piton Boyz’ performed favourably in the friendlies with two close results; St Lucia going down 2-3 to Guyana, while they lost 0-1 to T&T.
The technical unit commended the players on their performance, which saw the opponents edging out the Lucian side with late conversions in both games.
The Piton Boyz fielded eight young debutants for the friendlies, and according to the technical unit, the likes of Otev Lawrence and stand-in captain Kurt Frederick propelled and motivated the team to take on the challenge.
The St Lucia representative team is due to be released shortly, and the Piton Boyz will be making a determined bid to top their group D, in the League C of the tournament.
Scores of some Nations League matches, played this week are as follows:
Anguilla vs Dominica 0-0
Dominican Republic vs. Belize 2-0
Panama vs Curacao 2- 0
Guadeloupe vs Cuba 2-1