Kyle Lightbourne: that was the perfect response
Kyle Lightbourne hailed his side’s perfect response after a comprehensive 5-0 victory over Aruba reignited their World Cup qualifying campaign.
On the back of a 5-1 defeat by Canada in their opening outing in group B, Bermuda more than made amends as a brace from Kane Crichlow and further goals from Jaylon Bather, captain Danté Leverock and substitute Knory Scott secured their first points on the board.
In what could have proved a difficult encounter at the IMG Academy Complex in Bradenton, Florida, Lightbourne — who made a welcome return to the dugout after missing the opening match — could not hide his pride in the group.
“I’m definitely proud of the boys,” he told The Royal Gazette. “To come back from a heavy defeat and put on a performance like that is magnificent.
“They all stuck together and came away with a convincing win and a clean sheet. This result is absolutely the perfect response to the Canada defeat.”
After a tentative start to proceedings — against opposition who had prevailed 3-1 in their previous meeting in 2018 — Bermuda showed their character, building on a 2-0 half-time advantage in a ruthlessly dominant second 45 minutes.
Lightbourne highlighted the significance of the return of three of his squad who were forced to miss the opening encounter, adding some crucial strength in depth when required.
“We started a little slowly and allowed them to create a bit of pressure, but we got back into the game, made some adjustments and once the first went in we made it extremely hard for them,” Lightbourne added.
“We came into the match on the back of a heavy defeat and from my point of view I think we definitely showed some good character.
“First, to stand up to the early pressure and manage those situations. We knew it was going to difficult at times, but I was pleased with the response from there to go and dominate the match.
“Without doubt the most pleasing thing is that we didn’t rest on our laurels and I’m delighted to have come away with five goals and a clean sheet.
“Having that added strength back in the squad with Enrique Russell and Keishon Bean certainly helped. They both worked extremely hard and then we were able to bring on fresh legs at the right time, including Zeiko Lewis’s return, and took the game even farther away from Aruba.”
Reflecting on the first international window of this qualifying campaign, Lightbourne praised the resilience of his squad, having endured a torrid build-up to the trip owing to Covid-19 restrictions, both on island and within the camp.
While, he acknowledges progression from the group remains a tough task, with only one country progressing to the next stage of qualification, the head coach is refusing to give up the hope of upsetting the likes of Canada and Suriname, who hold the early advantage after back-to-back wins.
“Overall I can’t praise the squad highly enough,” he said. “In the lead-up to these two games, we all had to overcome so many challenges, but the squad did what they had to come away on a positive note.
“We know it will be extremely hard to progress from this group, but we have given ourselves a chance; that’s all we can ask for. We have also restored some pride and belief among the squad, which was vital.
“It’s just a shame we didn’t have a full-strength squad available against Canada, but we have to move on from that and keep improving.
“Now is the time to regroup, hopefully get a number of players back in the squad and go again when the next qualifiers come around later this year.”
Bermuda return to group B qualifying action on June 4 with a trip to Suriname, before hosting Cayman Islands four days later.