Team Saint Lucia held San Marino to a 1-all draw in the first of two international friendlies played at the Daren Sammy Cricket Ground [DSCG], Thursday.
A crowd of more than 700 turned up at the DSCG to witness a tight and gritty encounter, which featured teams that included a bunch of young debutants on opposing sides in tough rivalry.
Saint Lucia took the lead within the first half hour of play and mostly dominated play for that session. However, San Marino leveled the score late into the match with a brisk surge of energy that took the home team by surprise.
After putting on a challenging run in the opening session, the home team got into stride to effect a brilliant goal move. Skipper Kurt Frederick orchestrated the play from upper midfield as Team 758 got into the groove, and a neat string of passes led to Donovan Jn. Baptiste making good work in the 30th minute to smash the ball into the nets.
With Team 758 holding on to the 1-0 advantage, there was more intensity in the offense as either team took their chances on goal with the goalkeepers having to effect some fine saves.
As the match wore on, San Marino began to shift the pace of the game and on a few occasions came close to hitting the target. In the easiest of chances from the visitors, a striker kicked high and wide in front of an open goal heading into the latter part of the game.
San Marino appeared to have reserved that late surge of energy for the finish, and in a five-minute period bombarded the opposing defense to create the goal scoring moment. After some dangerous crosses across the box, and following a buildup on the left side, substitute Lazzari Lorenzo latched on to a through pass to convert the equalizer in the 3rd minute of added on time.
Despite conceding a goal in the latter stage of the match, Team 758 head coach Stern John was however pleased with the team’s overall efforts. The former football professional and Trinidadian native put the team’s setback down to tiredness in the latter stages and a lack of professionalism to effectively close out the game.
“We managed the game for the better part of 80 minutes and we probably got a bit tired coming down to the end. I know international football is a physical game, and you have to be fit to play international football as well,” declared coach John, at the post-match press conference.
He added, “When you get tired coming down to the end, you tend to lose your concentration and that was the cause of the goal in the end. I think we lost our way in terms of organization and we probably lost our shape as well.”
Nevertheless, John says it was a balanced and challenging game, and a learning experience for Team 758, with several young players making their senior debut representation against a professional European side.
The coach feels there is good prospects for the team, moving forward, stating that: “We dominated the ball well…I think we can do better with uses of the ball going forward a bit , but it is still a work in progress. I think for a lot of the local players it was the first time playing at the international level …but the San Marino is a very physical team and they matched them well.”
John asserted, “I feel the exercise was very good and I’m pretty happy with it.”
Though a bit disappointed with the result, San Marino Coach Fabrizio Costantini commended his players for the late fight back that saw the whole bench rushing onto the field to congratulate their teammates after the equalizer. He said the result is important as they strive to build up the team for future engagements.
Said Costantini: “For a team like San Marino that is accustomed to playing against European peers …denying a defeat is always a good outcome. We handled the game with a lot of youngsters …and as an overall evaluation, preventing a defeat is always a good outcome but we could have done even better.
With the final match set for tomorrow at the DSCG, from 4.00p.m. , and the fans eager to see the home squad put on an even better performance, John is hopeful that the team will do much better in Sunday’s game.
He declared: “We can expect the same performance, the same intensity, the same fight and the same drive. After today’s (Thursday) game it is an ‘eye-opener’ for a lot of the players to get that international experience and to see how important it is to get yourself in shape and to be organized. Football is a game of margins and if you don’t take your chances you end up disappointed eventually.”