Defeat not entirely of Bermuda's own making
Dominican Republic 1
Defeat is never pleasant, even less so when there is a feeling that it was not entirely your own fault.
Bermuda know something of this. A Caribbean Cup game against Dominican Republic that was supposed to be a cake walk turned into something very different on Saturday night.
The visiting team were believed to be weaker than French Guiana, a side Andrew Bascome's team were beating 1-0 away last Wednesday before the rains came, and who they had already beaten once at home in the first round.
Victory, while not assured, was expected and with it rested the hopes of a place in the third round of the competition in October.
Jonathan Fana Frias's first-half strike changed all that, and while Dominican Republic fully deserved their win for a performance full of energy and endeavour, Bermuda were a shadow of their former selves.
Lacklustre in approach, one dimensional in attack, and chaotic in defence, the home side produced one of their worst performances in recent memory at the least opportune time.
“I'm very, very disappointed,” Bascome said. “It's hard to ask more of them because of the travel and just getting back [to Bermuda] on Friday night, it's tough.
“Still, once we decide to go on to the pitch we still have to find a way to get a result.”
How much difference a result in French Guiana would have made is anyone's guess. Would a draw have washed away the tiredness that mammoth trip brought, would a win have propelled the sore legs and weary minds past a bustling Dominican Republic team.
“Looking back, could we have used more of the fresher legs sooner,” Bascome said. “It's six of one, half a dozen of the other. It's tough to put anything on it [reasons for the defeat], other than us being a step behind.”
Certainly those were factors in the result, but not the only ones. Bermuda looked uncomfortable in a formation that required Tre Ming to sit in the space between the back four and midfield, and Jonté Smith to operate as a loan striker.
Too often Smith was isolated upfront, and when his first touch did not let him down there was little support arriving from the midfield.
Defensively Bermuda were a mess too. Danté Leverock and Jaylon Bather looked as if they had only been introduced to each other moments before kick-off, and the home side's lack of pace at full back was cruelly exposed on umpteen occasions.
The pace and movement of Frias upfront, operating alongside Domingo Peralta Florencio, his club team-mate, and Eddipo Odriguez-Encarnacion, caused Bermuda problems all night, and only the woodwork and a couple of fortuitous blocks saved the home side from a real hammering.
“We know that we need to run hard, to work hard,” Frias said. “We know that Bermuda is a very good team, and we are feeling very good and now we can go back to Dominican Republic and concentrate on the next game.
“We have not qualified yet, but we have a good chance.”
Still, Drewonde Bascome should have put his team ahead after only ten minutes. Dale Eve's long clearance found Roger Lee free down the right, his cross was knocked down by Smith, and Bascome fired wide from just outside the area.
The Bermuda midfielder had a second chance moments later, but could only head Kilian Elkinson's deep cross well wide. The bright start the home side made petered out after that.
As the half wore on Rafael Leonardo Flores gave the visiting side more control in midfield, and Frias fired straight at Eve after Florencio had a shot blocked before Hansley Martinez Garcia, the central defender, hit the post with a header after Bermuda had switched off at the back.
Frias finally put his side ahead when Bermuda failed to clear the danger after a sustained spell of pressure, and the Dominican Republic captain hit a bobbling shot past Eve's despairing dive.
The striker almost put his side further ahead soon after when he had a shot blocked on the line by Leverock, and Florencio then rattled the cross bar after cutting between two defenders and getting on the end of a cross from Nestor Moquete Cuevas.
After half-time Andrew Bascome pushed Reggie Lambe and Zeiko Lewis up alongside Smith in search of some inspiration up front, and it nearly paid off, with Lewis firing a shot straight at Miguel Lloyd-Troncoso, the Dominican Republic goalkeeper.
Smith went close soon after, flashing a shot across the face of goal, but there was little real danger in his attempt, or in most of the efforts Bermuda had.
Lewis and Lambe both fired well over from free kicks in good positions, and substitute Lejuan Simmons's effort deep into injury time, which was of greater danger to the ball boy behind the goal than to Lloyd-Troncoso, rather summed up Bermuda's night.
The introduction of Rai Simmons shortly before the hour mark had at least added some zip to the Bermuda attack, but too often the final pass was missing, or the ball was sent sailing aimlessly down field.
For their part the visiting side seemed content to soak up what pressure there was, while hitting on the counter-attack, exposing the sluggishness of a defence that never really woke up.
Peralta Florencio and Frias both had chances to make the game safe for their side, but even those let offs failed to rouse Bermuda for a final push.
As the game wore on frustration crept into the Bermuda team, with Bather, Lee and Lambe all booked for clumsy challenges, while Lambe's bad night got worse when he hurt his left hip in a challenge late in the game and had to be stretchered off, leaving Bermuda to finish the game with ten men.
Defeat has left Bermuda's hopes of progressing to the third round hanging in the balance, and today they should find out when they will be required to return to French Guiana, for a game that could have been rendered largely meaningless by the result of tomorrow's match between Dominican Republic and the South American team.
“It's always disappointing when your country losses,” Bascome said. “French Guiana will be a tough ask, but this was our best chance [to get a win in the group].”
Dominican Republic (Frias 28)
Bermuda (4-1-4-1): D Eve — K Elkinson, D Leverock (sub: O Bascome, 70min), J Bather, R Lee — T Ming (sub: L Simmons, 85) — D Bascome (sub: R Simons, 58), W Clemons, R Lambe, Z Lewis — J Smith. Substitutes not used: J Hill, S Smith, D Ming, K Butterfield. Booked: Bather, Lee, Lambe.
Dominican Republic (4-3-3): M Lloyd-Troncoso — B Jimenez Gonzalez, Y Reyes Gonzalez, H Martinez Garcia, N Moquete Cuevas (sub: E Munoz Rubio, 53) — R Leonardo Flores, J Rosario (sub: A Salcedo de Jesus, 71), R Beard Murray — E Odriguez-Encarnacion (sub: L Sierra Mendez, 90+4), D Peralta Florencio, J Fana Frias. Substitute not used: H Terreno del Rosari.
Referee: K Morrison (Jamaica)