Still in with a chance
Barbados attacked a bit more last night against Aruba than they had done two nights previously against the Dominican Republic. And the change of mind-set paid dividends with a 2-1 victory in their final group match of the Caribbean Football Union’s Caribbean Cup encounter at Kensington Oval.
But with the Dominican Republic winning 2-1 against Dominica earlier in the evening, Barbados will have an anxious wait to see if they advance into the next round as one of the best four second-placed zonal teams.
Barbados started positively and had Aruba, probably the weakest team in the zone, immediately on the back foot. The local lads created a number of scoring opportunities, but adhesive defensive play by Aruba held them off.
Captain Jeffrey Williams had the best chance to put Barbados ahead but somehow with only the goal-keeper to beat, he kicked wide left from six yards out midway in the first half.
The breakthrough came in the 21st minute when Barry Skeete came forward from his defensive position and was able to keep the ball in play off a botched corner. His strike at goal then struck an Aruban defender and deflected past goal-keeper Eric Abdul and into the nets to give Barbados a 1-0 advantage.
That joy was short-lived as, 11 minutes later, Jean-Luc Bergen lobbed a shot over a flat-footed Kerry Holder in the Barbados goal, and his weak effort at clearance saw the ball sail over his head and into the bars from an acute angle.
Barbados, well aware that only a win would breathe some life into their campaign, pressed on, and in the 56th minute Mario Harte collected a pass from Malcolm Marshall and produced his best moment of the tournament. Harte seeing the advancing Aruban goalie chipped the ball over his head and into goal to give Barbados a 2-1 victory and more importantly six points overall as they now wait on the results of the other groups.
Aruba finished with one point in the zone.
In the first match of the evening, the Dominican Republic thanks to a decisive goal in extra time over Dominica, took Group 4 honours. The Spanish-speaking country came from a goal down to defeat Dominica 2-1. They now advance with Haiti and Martinique as group winners and await the other teams hoping to qualify for the next round.
A double strike by super-sub Jonathan Frias lifted the Dominican Republic to seven points, one ahead of Barbados. Dominica finished on three points.
Dominica had the early advantage as they took the lead in the 39th minute when Kelrick Walter ran down the right flank and delivered a cross to Lester Langlais who jumped high enough to connect with his head and scored on the flat-footed Dominican Republic goalie, Israel Rojas.
Dominica held their own against the Dominican Republic with some timely saves and their ability to shut down the danger man Erick Lopez who with his signature red boots was not given as much room to roam as in the previous encounters.
Lopez, a local crowd favourite, did make his mark in the game when he took a corner in the 66th minute and placed it on the waiting head of Frias for his first goal.
Dominica must have felt they were back in winners’ row in the 70th minute when they were awarded a penalty for a hard tackle inside the box. Kurlson Benjamin smartly marched forward to take the kick but was denied by Rojas in goal, much to the dismay of the Dominica team and supporters.
As if things weren’t going badly for Dominica already, they got worse when Andy St. Rose was sent off for his tackle on Lopez in the 85th minute.
With four minutes of extra time awarded, a deft pass from the mid-field found the feet of Frias who tore down the left flank unmarked and hit a blinder past goalie Glenson Price in extra time, sealing the victory.
Once again, a disappointingly small crowd turned up for the encounter.
After the game, coach Colin Forde said he was pleased about the efforts of his charges. He said that he had decided to play three strikers against Aruba taking into consideration that Barbados were in a must-win situation.
He noted that the team could be strengthened with overseas players like Emerson Boyce who plays for English Premier League team Wigan, depending on Barbados’ advancement in the competition.