Several wasted opportunities, numerous substitutes and way too many unnecessary fouls, summed up Barbados’ goalless stalemate against the Cuba Lions in last night’s international friendly at the Barbados Football Association’s Wildey, St Michael, AstroTurf.
The first of two match-ups which commenced at 7.p.m. was pacey, especially in the opening half where Cuba dominated the Bajan Tridents who were led by attacking midfielder Hadan Holligan wearing the captain’s armband in place of Rashad Jules, currently in Hungary on trial with top-tier football club Budapest Honved.
Unlike the game against Jamaica where Tridents created a lot of chances, BFA’s technical director Ahmed Mohammed did not believe the absence of his captain and attacking midfielder Jules contributed to his team’s unproductive showing up front.
“We had our chances, but the players were already loaded emotionally, and from there we lost our concentration. The game against Jamaica was easier for us to play and tonight [last night] they anticipated us, and they were playing very physical which was the only reason why we couldn’t be productive,” said Mohammed, who explained that the intention would be to remain calm in the second game on Wednesday, August 29.
The encounter got so physical that a total of eight yellow cards were dished out by St Kitts and Nevis referee Kimbell Ward. So intense was the battlefield that at one stage during the second half Ward and his two assistants had to intervene and part the players.
Barbados, known for their touch and go style of football, were not able to get that past Cuba in the final third as the visitors commanded the midfield and controlled the left field where they executed several attacking shots that put Barbados’ number one goalkeeper Dario Weir to work on his return to national duty.
Holligan with his attack comprising fellow midfielders Mario ‘Bagga’ Williams, Raheim Sargeant, Armando ‘Suga’ Lashley, Jomo Harris along with centre-forward Zeco Edmee, toiled hard in search of a chance to go up against the Cubans.
Williams voted most valuable player and best midfielder for the victorious Paradise team in this year’s Stag Beer Champions Cup Knockout final almost delivered the goods for the Tridents in the first half when he struck a 40-yard shot from midfield that would have shaken the nets if not for a brilliant diving save by Cuba’s custodian Sandy Sanchez Mustelier.
While Barbados kept the ball grounded, Cuba opted to play aerial and had the home team’s four-man defence team of Ramar Millar, Shane Codrington, Ackeel Applewhaite and Akeem Hill extremely busy. Two minutes before half-time Barbados won themselves a corner kick that resulted in an unfortunate injury for Barbados Defence Force Sports Programme attacking midfielder Hill who collided with Cuba’s goalkeeper Mustelier and had to be replaced by Rashad Smith when the second half began.
One of Barbados’ downfalls was the fact that Harris, Williams and at times Holligan were guilty of playing a bit too deep in the midfield. There were some adjustments made in the decisive period with fewer goal-scoring opportunities created.
The first real shot at goal came through none other than Williams with a ball that went just wide of the target towards the Kent Upton End.
Both teams made several substitutions, and coach Mohammed went for the offensive jugular by bringing on Jabarry ‘Pappi’ Chandler and Dishon Howell, two national forwards who have been out of competitive football for some time. That duo along with attacking midfielder Omani Leacock and defender Tito Beckles came on in the latter stage seeking to make a difference.
The replacement of Edmee in the 65th minute for Chandler was a good one as the Empire Soccer Club’s leading forward is talented enough to deliver for Barbados and he almost secured the win. In fact, it was the simplest of chances that should have been buried when he eased past one defender inside the 18-yard box with a seven-yard shot that should have been hammered past Cuban goalkeeper Mustelier but instead went into his waiting gloves.