Heartbreak for Cayman in Olympic qualifier opener

Grenada's Daren Modoo (9) battles Cayman's Christopher Reeves (7) for the ball.

It was arguably the most heart breaking of losses for Cayman Islands U23 footballers in their first CONCACAF preliminary Olympic qualifier against Grenada at Truman Bodden Sports Complex on Wednesday, 24 July 2019.

The hosts dominated possession and created more chances than the visitors but were left licking their wounds having been on the wrong end of a 1-0 result after a 54th minute goal from Daren Modoo.

“It’s very disappointing,” Cayman Islands captain Joshewa Frederick told reporters after the game. “I’m not too happy with it because we put in a lot [of work] in the past few months and I felt we should have gotten a lot more out of that game with the chances we had but we have to take positives from the game and move forward.”

The bright spots Frederick pointed to were the various opportunities they created to score, dominating the possession and refusing to back down against an opponent determined to make the game as physical as possible. “We just failed to capitalise on our chances,” the central defender lamented.

Cayman’s U23 players made their intentions clear from early that they would push forward whenever they got the opportunity, while Grenada appeared intent on physicality. Mason Duval, Micheal Martin, Kareem Foster and Barry Dre Tibbetts all had decent chances but couldn’t find the back of the net.

Cayman’s goalkeeper Albertini Holness gave the crowd some delight in the 26th minute, expertly denying a close-range attack from the Grenadians. However, Modoo got the breakthrough for the boys from the Spice Isle after slipping by the back line and tucked the ball neatly into the net for the lone goal of the game.

Cayman’s Elijah Seymour defended by Grenada’s Dorrel Pierre

A couple of cries from the home bench and the stands for penalties fell on deaf ears, as Vincentian referee Moeth Gaymes didn’t give in to gesture to the spot for a penalty. A curious decision to keep Sebastian Martinez, who has played professionally in England and Portugal, on the bench until the 74th minute left the talented forward with little time to make a difference on the outcome.

The game’s only yellow card came in the fourth and final minute on stoppage time in the second half when Michael Martin, having moments earlier been the victim of a hard tackle retaliated and caught the referee’s attention.

Head coach Benjamin Pugh said he was “bitterly disappointed” with the outcome.

“I thought we played really well. I thought our effort was outstanding. I thought we were the better team but I think a harsh lesson [is] if you don’t take your chances, unfortunately you always give yourselves an uphill battle,” he said.

Noting that the Grenadians had only two chances and made one count, Pugh added “we had maybe five or six good chances that we didn’t take. Unfortunately, that’s football.”

Michael Martin looks to cross the ball as Christopher Reeves (7) looks on.

Meantime, Grenada head coach Anthony Modeste summed up the game this way: “We’re not happy with the performance but we’re happy with the result for sure. The first game in any tournament is a very crucial game. We can play much better than we did today.”

He added that the game plan was not to make it a physical encounter. “It’s just the way the game ended up happening. It’s just the flow of the game.”

Grenada are back in action at Truman Bodden Sports Complex on Friday against Haiti at 7:30pm.

“As a coaching staff, we have to be wise,” he said, noting they’ll need to factor in fatigue as they prepare for potentially a much tougher opponent. “It was a physical game. It was a hard game. The grass is extremely thick, so we couldn’t pass the ball as we wanted. I know the legs are weary and we just have to let them rest and recuperate and get ready for Friday.”

Meantime, Cayman will have some time to reflect on their performance and prepare for their next game versus Haiti on Sunday.

Pugh said you shouldn’t expect the local boys to roll over and play dead versus the traditionally strong Haitians. “I think confidence will still be high…I think they will be really pleased with the way they played. Of course, frustrated and disappointed to lose but if we beat Haiti and Haiti beat Grenada, we give ourselves a chance.

Frederick put it this way: “We have to win. We have to win. We have to go out there and give it our all. It’s win or go home.” Only the top team from the group advances to the next round of qualifiers for the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.

Cayman Islands starting XI:

(L-R) Back row – Cameron Gray, Joshewa Frederick, Albertini Holness, Ackeem Hyde, Elijah Seymour. Front row – Barry Dre Tibbetts, Mason Duval, Kareem Foster, Leighton Thomas Jr, Christopher Reeves, Michael Martin.

Bench: Jabari Campbell, Sebasitan Martinez, Shakur Welcome, Kameron D’Hue, Zachary Scott, Ryan Jackson, Dante Ramoon, D’Andre Rowe.

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