The Cuba Lions’ pace on the ball, their precision and confidence in wet slippery conditions, earned them a 2-0 victory and the best of two international friendly series win over Barbados at the Barbados
Football Association’s Wildey, St Michael AstroTurf.
Midfielders Calero and Andy Ruiz scored respectively within the final five minutes of the opening half to ensure Cuba, led by captain and striking magician Yordan Vera, soared to a 2-0 lead in the 41st and 43rd minutes respectively over the Bajan Tridents.
Barbados’ technical director Ahmed Mohammed said he wanted a good tester against the Cubans before departing for their first Confederation of North, Central American and Caribbean Association Football Nations League Cup match against host Guyana on September 6 at the Leonora Track and Field Center. But things did not go according to plan, explained Mohammed, who added he wanted to stimulate the intensity of the game more than anything else.
“I didn’t get what I wanted. The only thing I can tell you is that we saw two different games, the players played well. Today [in the] first half [we had] two lapses, two mistakes, lack of communication. Second half I can say that the majority of the time we had the game under control,” Mohammed said, despite the team’s loss.
Explaining the type of result he had hoped for, the technical director said: “I wanted to stimulate the intensity of the game…To prepare the players mentally into that game but it wasn’t really a friendly game, it was more than a friendly game and that is not supposed to be that way. If you call it a friendly game, it is a friendly game because you want to know where you are at and what you must correct. Nothing else than that, it was just a fight, a battle.”
Cuba was strong in the midfield and Jorge Cuervo must be given credit for the way he played in that position. But it was Luismel from the right just outside the 18-yard box who executed a right-foot delivery during the drizzles, and the wet ball curled into the upper left corner of the goal bars past Barbados’ custodian Kishmar Primus. Cuba’s second goal came off a free kick taken from 25 yards when a combination of three passes found Ruiz for the final touch.
After a goalless first game marked by ill-tempered play and the issuing of several yellow cards by St Kitts and Nevis referee Kimbell Ward, game two yesterday was a much better affair. Both teams reduced their trivial bickering and unwarranted fouls. But unlike the first game, red cards were given out in the second half to substitute Jabarry ‘Pappi’ Chandler who replaced fellow forward Zeco Edmee and to Cuban defender Yasmany. Both were sent off in the 61st minute.
Chandler made the initial tackle on Escalantes who retaliated with a kick while on the ground and that did not sit too well with referee Ward. But thankfully both men would not suffer the consequences heading into the Nations League. According to Mohammed, Chandler would be able to play when the team travel to Guyana because those red cards did not count.
“That red card doesn’t bother us, as far as I know, nobody will take red cards into the new competition [Nations League], so all cards will not affect us,” Mohammed said assuredly.
Barbados made a total of six substitutes in the second half in which they looked a lot more assertive unlike the first where they barely strung together two passes before being intercepted by Cuba’s effective defence.
The Bajan Tridents looked more business-like in their approach when the decisive period began. Tridents captain Hadan Holligan who readjusted from playing deep, ran with his usual bursts of speed down the right and squared to Jomo Harris in the center of the 18-yard box. But midfielder Harris failed to make connection having come on to replace fellow University of the West Indies teammate Tito Beckles in the 46th period.
Barbados passed a lot more positively, as they pressured the ball with teenage forward Dishon ‘Eto’ Howell running at goalkeeper Sandy Mustelier who was later replaced by Nelson Barrientos. The former produced a wonderful diving save to deny a curling shot from Barbados attacking midfielder Omani Leacock who came on as a substitute in the 60th minute for Mario ‘Bagga’ Williams.
Raul Sosa, Cuba’s technical director said after the match through translator and Barbados’ FIFA certified assistant referee Clifton Garnes that he never had doubts about winning the game. He said it was important psychologically for his team to win.
“We went back, made our changes and came back with a different intensity and made sure we win the game.”