by Wade Gibbons
Perhaps hosts Barbados thought the game was being played in Santo Domingo. And maybe coach Colin Forde should have reminded his charges that they were the home side.
Whatever transpired in the dressing room before the match, Barbados’ defensive mind-set from the opening whistle in their Caribbean Football Union’s Caribbean Cup encounter last night against the Dominican Republic, resulted in a deflating 1-0 victory for the real visitors at Kensington Oval.
That win took the Dominican Republic to the top of Group 4 that also includes Dominica and Aruba. And with their conquerors already drawing with Aruba, Barbados will have to beat Aruba handsomely tomorrow night to advance after the team they defeated 1-0, Dominica, beat Aruba 3-2 in the first match of the evening. The Dominican Republic are on four points, followed by Dominica and Barbados tied on three points and Aruba on one point.
Photographers positioned behind the Dominican Republic’s goal-bars waiting for that opportunistic picture had to head in the opposite direction to stand behind Jason Boxill’s goal as Barbados spent the majority of the first 45 minutes in their own half of the field. There were times when as many as seven players were in defensive positions in their own half of the field with the hard-working Tristan Parris cutting a lonely figure running at the visitors’ defence on the odd occasion.
Parris worked his socks off with little support, but will feel a sense of regret in not connecting with a header metres from the Dominican Republic’s goal area that would have earned Barbados an advantage against the run of play. This was one of the few opportunities which the Bajans created.
The swift striker Erick Lopez was a constant thorn in the sides of the hosts, as well as vice-captain Heinz Barmettler on the flanks. Pedro Nunez also kept the Barbados defensive line occupied throughout the game. That the two teams went into the break locked in a goal-less situation was due to some excellent goalkeeping from Boxill who time and again saved his side more blushes. He was beaten on one occasion after coming off his line but a desperate clearance by Andre Bourne who put his body on the line saved the day for Barbados.
Boxill also had to parry a shot from Jimmy Bautista in the first half that seemed destined for the back of the nets.It was more of the same in the second half from
Barbados who seemed clearly bent on trying to hang on for a draw. If their strategy was to soak up wave after wave of attack and then hit the Dominican Republic on the counter, they needed to give Parris more help in attack but he didn’t get it.
Then in the 80th minute what had looked like it would have occurred on at least four other occasions finally did. Barmettler collected a pass on the left side of the Barbados goal area and ran past three defenders as though they were contemplating the possible date of the imminent general election, passed off to Nunez who clinically slotted past Boxill. There was a sense of inevitability about it all. Suddenly Barbados started to show some enterprise, and with substitutes Carl Joseph on for an ineffective Mario Harte, Armando Lashley for Raheim Sargeant and Kyle Gibson for Ramuel Miller, Barbados finally attempted to play as though they were in Bridgetown and not Barahona.
They almost got the equaliser just on the 90th minute when Kemar Headley found himself in space in front the Dominican Republic’s goal with only goalie Israel Rojas to beat. He surely could not miss. But he did, sending his effort sailing over the bars from six yards to the collective groans of another disappointingly moderate crowd in attendance.
And seconds before the whistle Parris, at the near post, collected a high ball from a pass on the left wing but was in a difficult position when he made the effort to convert and failed to do so.
In the night’s opening game goals by Chad Bernard (34th minute), and Kurleson Benjamin (44th and 77th) gave Dominica a 3-2 win over Aruba, for whom Jean Luc Bergen (38th) and Frederick Gomez (55th) netted.
In his post-match analysis Forde, incredibly, said he was pleased with the way Barbados played. He noted the opposition were very sharp with their passing and Barbados had to drop back on defence to contend with them. He added Barbados had to work harder but he expected them to do well against Aruba tomorrow.
Barbados play Aruba at 8 p.m. in a must-win game, while Dominica take on the Dominican Republic at 6 p.m.