Two golden touches by Rashad Jules ensured Barbados earned their first win of the year with a 2-1 result over Martinique at the Usain Bolt Sports Complex Sunday night.
The results were however reversed when Barbados senior women’s team lost 2-1 to Martinique in another hard-fought contest.
All eyes were on the senior men’s showdown between the two Caribbean nations in a highly anticipated international friendly that also served as preparation for the upcoming Windward Islands Cup.
Unfortunately for Barbados they suffered an early hiccup when the skillful Romario Harewood was forced to leave play in the 13th minute with an injury. Crane and Equipment Ellerton Football Club striker Shakille Belle came on and got right to work as the local men never got sidetracked and captured sweet revenge over a much more experienced Martinique side who were victorious 3-2 the last time these two teams met in 2014.
Jules, Barbados Defence Force Sports Programme’s star player in the local Barbados Football Association Premiership, outpaced the Martiniquais’ defence twice on the left flank during the second half with his brilliant left footed touches. He was a constant headache for the visiting team.
The first half was uneventful with the most telling occurrence being Martinique placed at a numerical disadvantage from the 40th minute. They lost former Real Madrid midfielder Julien Favbert who was red-carded by Vincentian referee Moeth Gaymes for what appeared to be unsportsmanlike language directed towards the referee who went straight to his back pocket.
This is where the Tridents led by Arantees Lawrence in place of an injured Mario Harte exploited the advantage.
In the second half they capitalized when Jules found a break in the 60th minute past Martinique defenders Nicolas Zaire and Gerald Dondon, followed by a well measured on target left footed chip over the head of custodian Kevin Olympa who left his mark and was unable to get back in time.
The visitors underestimated the ability of Jules who for his second goal of the night ran past the duo of Zaire and Dondon with a tremendous burst of speed for a clinical one-time finish inside the 18-yard box in the 67th minute as local football fans erupted in celebration.
Barbados coach Colin “Heavy Foot” Harewood made a few changes during the second half when he brought on Zico Edmee, Elijah Downey and Sheran Hoyte. There were a few chances that went a-begging including Edmee who nearly got one past Martinique goalkeeper Olympa on his first touch in Barbados colours.
The French-speaking opponents were clearly under pressure and needed a response. They managed to earn themselves at least two free kicks on the left flank with the first shot being superbly saved by national goalkeeper Dario Weir going airborne to his left. The visitors then made good use of another opportunity when Stephan Abaul unmarked at the top post of the 18-yard box buried one past goalkeeper Weir in the 85th minute.
It was game on in the dying stages of the match but the Bajans did well to keep ball possession and hold on for the victory.
Speaking after the match, Harewood said they were looking for the right mix going into the Windward Cup Tournament and were pleased to they were finding it gradually.
“We are now trying to find our style and now we have our new technical director [Ahmed Mohamed]. He was on me in terms of different systems, different way we should be playing and to be honest we executed a lot of things from practice. And also since the new technical director came, I feel comfortable, I think the guys have showed that we can play.
“It was a tough game. We know that technically Martinique are a good team, they have good pedigree and to be honest the Martinique team never gave up. Although they were playing with ten men, they still had us under pressure but our guys kept their calm, we kept our shape, discipline and that is why we came out victorious,” Harewood said.
In the women’s game, Emeline Fontaine and Adeline Privat netted goals in the 13th and 90+1 minutes respectively for Martinique while Felicia Jarvis scored Barbados’ lone goal in the 29th which was the equalizer.
Captained by Gabriella Lopez, the Bajan Gems showed signs of great improvement on the offensive end with the skillful Soraya Toppin-Herbert and Shanice Stevenson both creating their magic upfront but were left to rue not being able to find the back of the nets.