In what was a must-win situation for the Barbados senior national men’s team, they fell agonizingly short 1-0 against Guadeloupe in what was their third straight defeat in Group A of League B in the Concacaf Nations League.
Played tonight at the Daren Sammy Cricket Ground in St. Lucia, the Barbados Tridents conceded a first-half goal against Guadeloupe who are currently battling for the top spot in the group along with Cuba.
Unable to keep possession, Tridents’ defensive third let them down when Guadeloupe forward Thierry Ambrose dribbled past two defenders and produced a clinical right-foot finish in the 17th minute of play to earn his team the lead. That was Ambrose’s second goal of the competition having registered a late goal against Cuba in their opening match of the Nations League.
National midfielder Omani Leacock put in a good effort but just was unable to find the equalizer for Barbados.
Tonight’s defeat has added to the mountainous pressure on coach Russell ‘Little Magician’ Latapy and his coaching staff including assistant national coach Kent Hall.
Barbados are currently facing relegation from League B having failed to register a goal or score a point in this tournament and they remain bottom of the table. Their losing record goes back from July 2021 when they suffered an 8-1 drubbing against Bermuda.
So far in their three matches played, the Barbados side led by talented midfielder Hadan Holligan lost 1-0 to Antigua and Barbuda in St. Lucia, were outplayed 3-0 by the host Cuba and tonight failed to get past Guadeloupe.
These defeats aren’t from a lack of trying as they had the highest percentage of ball possession against Guadeloupe and won a couple of set pieces taken most of the time by Ackeel Applewhaite but just found the going tough to get past a strong Guadeloupe defensive third.
The entire Barbados bench knew that nothing less than a win was required tonight to keep their hopes alive in the Group. However, they will need to make good on their next couple of attempts when they play their next round of matches against these same teams.
Barbados goalkeeper Kishmar Primus showed why he is the national number one with some tremendous saves at crucial times against Guadeloupe tonight and in previous encounters against Antigua and Barbuda as well as Cuba.
While the senior Tridents created scoring opportunities, they lacked that zest at times to finish the job. National midfielder Omani Leacock, a constant thorn in the side of Guadeloupe, outpaced his marker with a pass to striker Keon Atkins inside the area for a shot that was cleared by the boot of Guadeloupe goalkeeper Brice Cognard in the 30th minute.
That was the best chance of the opening half for Barbados as they kept probing and searching for the equalizer through the constant efforts of Leacock and Tajio James upfront. But instead, when referee Castro sounded his whistle at the 45+ minute halftime break it was still Barbados who trailed 1-0.
On resumption of play Barbados’s offence appeared hungry for a goal and wasted no time on the attack. Defender Andre Applewhaite showed he not only has that defensive touch but also that skilful capability with a well-controlled shot that was cleanly collected by Guadeloupe goalkeeper Cognard.
Coach Latapy opted to enhance his offence with attackers Niall Reid-Stephens and Sheran Hoyte coming onto the field of play around the 68th minute in place of striker Keon Atkins and defender Nicoli Brathwaite.
Both sides of the bench opted to make substitutions as Guadeloupe also made some changes to maintain the lead and hang on for the win.
Barbados accounted for yet another free-kick opportunity that materialized off a Hadan Holligan foul. Reid- Stephens stepped up to take the shot outside the 18-yard box and despite a good effort in terms of placement, the ball found the waiting arms of goalkeeper Cognard yet again, this time in the 78th minute.
It is fair to say Barbados were dealt a cruel blow in the 90+4 minute of play when Guadeloupe goalkeeper Cognard in pursuit of the ball collected it outside of the penalty box which is against the rules and should have been a free-kick opportunity rewarded to Barbados who badly needed every opportunity to score.
It was a lucky escape for Guadeloupe to get away with that particular play which referee Castro, who did a good job for most of the night, failed to call when it mattered most. The disappointment on the faces of the Barbadian players in their traditional yellow uniforms was highly visible as many of them collapsed in disappointment and understandably so.
Barbados will play Guadeloupe yet again this coming Sunday, June 12th, in an away fixture.