Bermuda get off to a flyer
Bermuda hammered ten-man Bahamas in Nassau last night in the first leg of their 2018 World Cup qualifier.
Andrew Bascome's side dominated from almost the first minute, and barring an upset of titanic proportions on Sunday, will now face Guatemala in the second round.
Justin Donawa scored twice, Nahki Wells put his penalty misery behind him, while Danté Leverock and Zeiko Lewis also got on the scoresheet.
Wells probably should have had a hat-trick, but he blazed over the bar with only Dwayne Whylly, the Bahamas goalkeeper, to beat. He then had another effort hacked off the line by Justin Sealy, the defender.
Whylly came to his side's rescue on several occasions and the embarrassment would surely have been greater if not for his performance.
Leverock gave Bermuda a dream start, rising highest from a corner to power a header past Whylly with just four minutes gone.
The visiting side might even have been behind themselves at that stage, with Leslie St Fleur wasting an opportunity when clean through on goal. The Bermuda defence was caught napping, and a ball over the top found St Fleur in acres of space.
However, the Bahamas midfielder did not realise how much time he had, and tried to head the ball rather than controlling it, only succeeding in sending a weak effort into the arms of goalkeeper Freddy Hall. That was as close as Bahamas got all game.
St Fleur was his side's greatest threat constantly finding space down the right, and with a little more guile in midfield Bahamas could have posed more of a danger to a Bermuda defence that barely had to break a sweat.
The penalty with only 15 minutes gone killed off the game as a contest, and Duane Beneby, the Bahamas defender, can count himself lucky not to have been sent off for an ugly challenge on Lewis that left the Bermuda player writhing on the floor in agony.
Wells may have missed two for Huddersfield Town last Saturday, but he made no mistake this time around, hammering the ball into the right-hand corner of the goal.
Wells had been instrumental in creating the space for Lewis to win the foul, and with Rai Simons and Lewis running the Bahamas defence ragged, it seemed to be a case of when, and not if, Bermuda would score again.
Jalen Harvey and Donawa both went close, with Whylly pulling off a fine save to deny Harvey and Donawa's goal-bound effort deflected at the last moment by Sealy.
Beneby, meanwhile, had been giving Wells a hard time, upending him clumsily on several occasions, and finally found his way into the book for a challenge that left Wells on his back.
With nearly half an hour gone, Lewis finally added the third that Bermuda had long threatened. Picking up the ball near the halfway line, he ran at the defence and, with Wells and Simons outside of him, took advantage of indecision in the Bahamas back four to cut to the left and fire the ball into the bottom right-hand corner.
The half ended just as badly as it started for Bahamas, with Happy Hall, the unhappily named left back, getting himself sent off for a professional foul on Wells just outside the area.
The second half continued in much the same vein: Bermuda attacked, Bahamas tried to stop them, not always legally — a tactic that led to Armando Villarreal, the American referee, showing cards to five of them.
Bahamas at least threw caution to the wind after the restart and St Fleur had some joy attacking down the right. He had little support inside him, however, and Hall had one of the quietest games he is likely to have had in a long time.
Donawa capped a fine individual performance in the second half with two well-taken goals, holding off Ambry Moss, the Bahamas central defender, to rifle in an effort from outside the area to put his team four up, and then was on hand to drive the ball home when Jonté Smith knocked the ball down from a Tyrell Burgess cross with 20 minutes remaining.
The game petered out thereafter, with Bermuda content to press when they could, while also trying to stay in one piece, as Bahamas' frustrations got the better of them.
St Fleur almost had the final say. Running in from the left, he cut past Jaylon Bather but then lost control of the ball, which trickled harmlessly into the side-netting of the Bermuda goal. It largely summed up Bahamas' rather limp display in the face of an impressive Bermuda one.
Bahamas (4-5-1): D Whylly — H Hall, J Sealy, A Moss, D Beneby — C Hepple, D Pritchard, K Wood (sub: T Delancy, 75min), C Sheehan (sub: N Jean, 29), L St Fleur — I Winder (sub: C Larson, 56). Substitutes not used: E Carroll, V Bodie, I Collie, D Mitchell, P Brooks, R Munroe, R Jones, C Godet. Booked: Whylly, Sealy, Hepple, Beneby, Nesly. Sent off: Hall.
Bermuda (4-5-1): F Hall — J Harvey (sub: J Raynor, 76), J Bather, D Leverock, T Burgess — Z Lewis, T Ming (sub: K Bean, 66), D Bascome, N Wells, J Donawa — R Simons (sub: J Smith, 60). Substitutes not used: D Eve, J Hayward, M Hill, C Robinson, R Lambe, L Simmons.
Referee: A Villarreal (United States).