Bermuda off to promising start in CAC qualifiers after holding Puerto Rico to a draw
Bermuda 0 Puerto Rico 0
Bermuda began their Central American and Caribbean Games field hockey qualifying campaign on a promising note after holding the tournament’s top-seeds Puerto Rico to a goalless draw yesterday.
The hosts produced a defensive masterpiece backed up by the solid goalkeeping of Justin Dill between the posts to carve out the positive result.
Although scoring chances were few and far between at at the Flora Duffy Stadium, Bermuda came close to snatching victory in the fourth and final period when defender Alexander Godet’s shot from a penalty corner was saved on the goalline.
The Puerto Ricans, who dominated the match, created ample opportunities for themselves to come away victorious but were denied by a combination of their hosts’ superb defending and the upright.
Kovin Moodley, the Bermuda coach, hailed his team’s effort which he said they can be proud of.
“Playing against the top team at this tournament and coming out with a draw is something that we can feel pretty proud of,” he told The Royal Gazette.
“I am just so proud of the guys. To be able to play for 60 minutes at this intensity is a strain, and I think we have so much to be proud of.”
Moodley does not consider the result as an upset as he believes his team has the necessary weapons in their arsenal to have come away with maximum points from the group match.
“I believe the prep that the guys have put in should have allowed us to come up with the win,” he added. “I was quite confident in my players, so I think they now realise that winning every game is now a possibility.
“We had to get some of the jittery nerves out of our system but I think they now realise we can compete at this level.”
Moodley praised his team’s defending, in particular the brilliant goalkeeping of Dill, who made a string of saves to keep the hosts in contention.
“I am really proud of Justin who has had a couple of injuries coming into this tournament,” he said. “So for him to be able to manage his body and recover the way that he did, I am just very pleased with him.
“In terms of his performance, he organised the back four a lot better in this game. I think there’s better connection between him and the back four players.
“But in terms of a shot-stopper, he’s my guy. I am just very impressed with the way that he cleared the ball as well.
“Defensively we had to put in a big shift. But it starts with everyone and not one player. But for him to come through what he has is definitely something that we can look at and praise him for.”
Meanwhile, Joevannie Tirado, the Puerto Rico manager, felt his team was unfortunate not to come away victorious having dominated and created more scoring opportunities.
“I think we dominated the game in the early moments and then after a stretch of the game they pressured us and tried to score to surprise us and take the win,” he said.
“But we felt we were better as the superior team the whole game and we missed several opportunities to score – and that was the game.
“We missed clear opportunities and had one or two misplays by the umpires. But at the end I think it was a very good match and they (Bermuda) played well.”
The Puerto Ricans dominated the first half with Dill saving captain Ottus Feliciano’s shot at the near post, as the hosts struggled to string passes together and wasted good possessions by committing unforced errors.
Puerto Rico turned up the pressure in the third quarter with Dill saving efforts from Kenneth Rodriguez, Giovanni Maldonado and Feliciano.
The visitors had a goal from a penalty corner disallowed and went closest to scoring when Yaphet Melendez struck the post.
Having weathered the storm, Bermuda enjoyed their best spell in the final quarter and came close when Felliciano saved Godet’s shot off the line with goalkeeper Melad Bassiri stranded in no-man’s-land.
Bermuda will now look to build on their start when the face Jamaica in their second group match today.
“I think Jamaica generally are very physically gifted,” Moodley said. “They are quite a strong team, quite a fast team. But we have a plan for them.”
Bermuda’s women’s team will also be in action when they begin their qualifying campaign also against Jamaica.
The top two men’s and women’s teams will earn a spot at next year’s CAC Games in San Salvador, El Salvador.
Bermuda: J Dill – N Botelho, C Lightowler, A Godet, J Trott, A Madeiros, Z Lightbourne-Cann, D Simmons, R Young, R Minors, X Smith, H Bean, S Thompson, A Smith, T Smith, M Ming-Woodley.
Puerto Rico: M Bassiri – K Rodriguez, D Basora, M Colon, K Rivera, V Borroto, E Fuentes Rios, J Rodriguez, F Maldonado, J Agosto, K Cabrera, C Figueroa, L Torres Grilo, J Davila, G Maldonado, O Feliciano, Y Melendez.
Umpire: S Lance (USA).