Martin’s brace gives Cayman 2-0 win over USVI

Cayman Islands starters (Image courtesy CONCACAF)

A pair of goals by Michael Martin propelled the Cayman Islands national men’s football team to their first competitive win in nearly a decade, as they beat the United States Virgin Islands 2-0 to begin their CONCACAF Nations League campaign on 5 September.

Kick-off at the newly built Bethlehem Soccer Complex in St Croix was delayed by an hour to allow the Cayman Islands players enough time to get ready, having landed on a charter flight from Grand Cayman that afternoon.

On the pitch, the game got off to an active start, with Albertini Holness being called upon early to account for himself on his senior debut. USVI’s Raejae Joseph had a decent attempt in the third minute but Holness was there to turn him away.

It was a physical half that ended scoreless and saw 20 fouls committed, as the hosts controlled 53 percent of the possession compared to 47% for the Cayman Islands. Karl Solomon’s free kick that hit the post in the 36th minute was the best chance for either side.

The weather had been threatening to have a say and that the heavens opened up in the second to make already windy conditions tricky. But both sides adjusted and settled into the conditions.

Martin’s first goal came in the 60th minute, when he intercepted a pass about 30 yards out, got to the top of the 18-yard box, shifted the ball to his left foot to clear himself of the defender and drilled it past USVI keeper Lionel Brown to give Cayman the 1-0 lead. Martin somersaulted toward the team’s bench in celebration.

Cayman players celebrate the opening goal amidst the downpours.

As the weather improved, the USVI fought hard to get the equaliser but in their push for that goal, they were left vulnerable at the back and with seconds to go before the four minutes of stoppage time expired, Martin, who played a season with Jamaica’s Harbour View FC, collected the ball in Cayman’s half and pressed forward past the defenders to easily find the back of the net for his brace and secured a 2-0 win for the Cayman Islands.

It was a solid win all-around for the Cayman Islands and their first in international competition since the Digicel Cup of 2010. Holness and Jorel Bellafonte both got starts on their senior debut, with the former having the distinction of a clean sheet after stopping all six USVI shots that were on target.

Newly appointed head coach, Benjamin Pugh, said it was a well-deserved win. “It’s a good feeling but it is something we have to continue to build upon,” he told from St Croix. “We look to continue with the momentum and hopefully, there are more wins down the line as well. I think that’s the most important thing – we can’t get too carried away with one win.”

Cayman returns home to face Barbados at Truman Bodden Sports Complex on Sunday, 8 September. Pugh has the task of getting them set for what’s expected to be a tougher opponent.

“It’s easy to prepare them when their motivation is good. Coming off the back of a win, spirits are high and the players are happy with the result and are focused. They share the view that they don’t want it to be a one-off result,” he said. “We’re under no illusions that it won’t be a tough game but we’re up for the challenge.”

Kick-off is 7:00pm.

Cayman Islands starters: Albertini Holness (GK), Akeem Hyde, Lucas Christian, Joshewa Frederick (capt), Andre McFarlane, Karl Solomon, Christopher Reeves, Michael Martin, Matthew Suberan, Jorel Bellafonte, and Theron Wood. Substitutes: Jonah Ebanks, Jermaine Wilson, Martin Webb, Shakur Welcome.

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