Barbados’ debutant Hallam Hope delivered an important brace that propelled the Bajan Tridents to a 2-1 lead, but host Guyana Jaguars equalized 2-2 when the historic CONCACAF Nations League kicked off last night at the National Track and Field Centre, Leonora, in Guyana.
It was a performance of character from the Bajan Tridents with a FIFA ranking of 160, ahead of their Guyanese counterparts at 182. Both countries shared a point each after that draw.
The allotted 45 minutes opening half ended without a goal being scored as numerous chances went a-begging in both final thirds. Tridents with a 4-4-2 formation were unable to capitalize on those crucial opportunities that were narrowly missed by forwards Armando ‘Suga’ Lashley and Hope, the English-born professional player.
Tridents were down 1-0 just 20 seconds into the second half when forward Trayon Bobb scored the opener for Guyana in the 46th minute. But Hope who was non-existent in the first period brought the game to life when he fired a shot from top of the 18-yard box past Guyana’s custodian Kai McKenzie-Lyle leaving him with no chance whatsoever in the 65th minute.
Barbados technical director Ahmed Mohammed was hungry for more goals and he decided to make a few offensive substitutions in the second half by bringing on Zeco Edmee for Lashley, Ackeel Applewhaite for Teriq Highland and Dishon ‘Eto’ Howell in place of vice-captain Hadan Holligan.
But again, it was the 24-year-old Hope with the scoring touch that give the men in blue that all-important 2-1 advantage when he grabbed hold of a lovely square ball from captain Rashad Jules who did well to beat the defender with pace on the left wing and delivered a fantastic square ball to Hope for his second goal of the night in the 73rd minute.
Jaguars’ defence led by their captain Samuel Cox were left with stunned looks on their faces.
At this stage, the Guyanese were haunted by those missed earlier opportunities in the first half where they had three clear chances at goal. And just when Tridents were on the verge of possibly winning their opening match of this inaugural tournament, Jaguars’ veteran midfielder Neil Danns who played with Hope at Bury Football Club in the United Kingdom responded with the equalizer in the 78th minute, a strike past Barbados’ number one Keasal Broome.
With 12-minutes left to play plus added time, the pressure was on for both teams to secure that match-winning goal. Bajan Tridents had a good chance considering a few of Jaguars’ key players went off injured. The sudden replacements of Jaguars’ top forward Sheldon Holder and especially their defender Ronayne Marsh- Brown allowed Barbados to attack more purposefully.
Hope, Jules, along with the massive frames of Ranaldo Bailey and Mario ‘Bagga’ Williams played more confidently in the second half. They even followed the instructions of technical director Mohammed who directed his charges to pressure the ball and that’s what they did resulting in those two goals from Hope.
But Tridents backline led by overseas professional Krystian Pearce along with center-back Ramar Miller, Raheim Sargeant at left-back and Teriq Highland at right-back will need to work on shutting down the ball a lot sooner especially when they come up against Spanish nations such as El Salvador and Nicaragua in their other upcoming Nations League fixture.
Guyana’s goal scorer Trayon Bobb was mischievous with his attacking plays and many times due to the failure of Tridents back four to close him out quickly. And it wasn’t just Bobb but fellow Guyanese forward Andrew Murray and midfielder Daniel Wilson who caused problems for Tridents’ defence.
Bajan Tridents had 48 percent possession on the ball and eight goals on target compared to 52 percent by the Guyana Jaguars who had 14 shots at goal in the final third.
On October 13th Barbados will contest their second Nations League match against host El Salvador.