The historic inaugural match between hosts Barbados and Belize Jaguars ended in a goalless stalemate at the Barbados Football Association’s Wildey, St Michael AstroTurf last night.
The Bajan Tridents led by attacking midfielder Rashad Jules who was wearing the captain’s armband were tactically strong in the international friendly. But they were unable to put at least one goal past the defensive third of the 169th ranked Belizeans who are 11 places lower than Barbados (158) in the FIFA standings.
Barbados’ last encounter in March of this year, produced the same result, a goalless draw against the Bermuda Gombey Warriors. Speaking during the post-game press conference, BFA technical director, Ahmed Mohammed said despite drawing the last two international friendlies, Belize and Bermuda were different opponents and therefore they could not be compared.
“Those were two different games. We know how Bermuda was playing, and Belize is totally different. In the future, we must focus more on our final third and as we know, that is mainly our weakness. But as you can see, we could keep the intensity, we could dominate the game and put a lot of pressure on our opponents,” Mohammed said.
As Barbados prepare themselves for the Confederation of North, Central American and Caribbean Association Football [CONCACAF] Nations League competition scheduled to commence September 8 this year, Mohammed quipped that going forward the senior Tridents needed to work harder on finishing in the final third.
“When we go to Belize August 4th [for the second and final international friendly], our plan will be the same. It doesn’t matter if they are home, strong or not because in October El Salvador is waiting on us [for Nation League Competition] …We are ready for them [Belize] and going forward we will work on our finishing and it will come in time. The most important thing was to keep the intensity of the game and we did that,” Mohammed said.
To secure the winner, technical director Mohammed opted to bring on Omani Leacock to replace Ackeel Applewhaite who came off limping in the 78th minute and teenager Thierry Gale was brought on for Armando ‘Suga’ Lashley who earlier in the game went close to scoring with a delightful shot that went just over the crossbar.
Many felt that Gale came on a bit too late, but it did not stop the St Leonard schoolboy and national Under-17 star player from pressuring Belize’s backline with assistance from Leacock.
In fact, Barbados nearly pulled off the winner when Leacock slipped past one defender on the right, then played a precisely driven leading ball inside the 18-yard box to captain Jules whose left foot shot brought local supporters spontaneously to their feet. But once again Belize captain West Woodrow came to his team’s rescue with a superb clearance to deny Jules. Credit must be given to both goalkeepers as Barbados’ number one Kishmar Primus also did well to stop Belize forwards Davis Jarret and McCaulay Deon from scoring.
During the opening ten minutes of the 7.p.m encounter officiated by Grenada’s centre referee Reon Radix, Belize applied pressure on Barbados’ defensive third. And even though at times the visitors were able to control and play a touch and go style of football, Barbados’ most experienced central defender, Ranaldo Bailey did well to shut down the attacks.
Unfortunately, Bailey was forced to depart the field of play after sustaining a head injury that left him bleeding when he collided with Belize midfielder Elroy Kuylen and suffered the brunt of the blow. Fellow Barbados Defence Force Sports Programme teammate Akeem Hill was the next best choice for Barbados and came on in the 68th minute to replace Bailey.
Hill joined his BDFSP captain Shane Codrington who took over as the central defender and received support from right-back Carl Hinkson, and Applewhaite who was surprisingly utilized at left-back instead of playing a more attacking game in the midfield where he has performed well so far this premier league season for his club Paradise.
But Mohammed believes that Applewhaite or any other player for that matter should be able to play any position when called upon.
With Belize not being a strong defensive side, and with midfielders Raheim Sargeant, Hadan Holligan and ‘Suga’ Lashley, all attacking the flanks, a man like Applewhaite or even Jomo Harris whose presence was not felt much in the game should have been positioned in that midfield where enough room was available for Barbados to manoeuvre and shoot. But in the end, all those chances went a-begging.