Analysis: coach Kyle Lightbourne gets it right in securing a good point
Bermuda played host in their first match in group B of League B against Haiti at the Flora Duffy Stadium and put on an impressive showing to secure a well-deserved point by holding higher-rated opponents to a 0-0 draw. Haiti, ranked 90th by Fifa, could not break down a stubborn Bermuda side 77 places below them whose defence showed no signs of intimidation and were good value for a clean sheet.
A noticeable absentee from Haiti’s line-up was their prolific striker Frantzdy Pierrot, who scored a quickfire hat-trick in a 4-1 win the last time the teams met. Although Haiti had outnumbered Bermuda in attempts on goal 14-9, goalkeeper Dale Eve used arms and legs, backed by solid defending to deny every effort from the visiting side to leave them frustrated at the final whistle.
Kyle Lightbourne started the Gombey Warriors in a 3-5-2 formation with Jalen Harvey, Reece Jones Jr and centre back Danté Leverock playing in front of goalkeeper Eve. Roger Lee played as a holding midfielder to support the defence with Milan Butterfield and Reggie Lambe as central midfielders to support the two front players. Debutant Daniel Cook and Lejaun Simmons played left and right midfield respectively with Kole Hall and captain Nahki Wells starting as double strikers. This countered Haiti’s formation of 4-1-4-1 with the intent of using Cook and Simmons as outlets to play the ball away from pressure, but they were hardly used as attacking players as Haiti concentrated most of their attacks down the flanks, forcing Cook and Simmons to defend frequently.
In the absence of Pierrot, Haiti played tall striker Carnejy Antoine up front and the occasional aerial pass was played to him for a lay-off but he was well marked by Leverock, who challenged him for every ball. Although Antoine was successful in getting to many headers, the pressure from Leverock was enough to put him off target or Eve was positioned well to handle the threat. On one occasion, Cook got pulled inside, which allowed Christiano François to get in a cross that was met by Antoine, whose drive rattled the crossbar before being cleared to safety.
Haiti’s wide players in François, Derrick Étienne Jr, and Alex Christian continuously made rotating runs forward, but with Bermuda defending well as a unit, all attempts were denied. Bermuda stayed compact when defending then expanded on the attack but not to the extent of being caught short at the back.
Bermuda captain Wells was a marked man throughout and had two men around him every time he touched the ball. In addition, Haiti applied a high press to put the Bermuda players under pressure every time they received the ball, forcing an error or misdirected pass. Butterfield fell victim to this and never looked settled.
As the first half ended, Haiti had six attempts with the majority forcing Eve to a save, while Bermuda had four attempts but neither had the velocity to beat the Haiti goalkeeper.
Both teams made early second-half changes, with Steeven Saba coming on and given free rein to run the midfield. He was instrumental in most of Haiti’s attacks as he increased the tempo of the match in search for an opener. With this talent, he should have been a starter. Bermuda brought on Willie Clemons for an out-of-touch Butterfield and this had an immediate impact with his attacking prowess and running power from the midfield. Bermuda started to have more meaningful and composed attacks with penetrating balls behind the Haitian defence.
As the game wore on, Haiti increased the intensity in search of that elusive goal, and almost paid for it on the counter-attack, from which Bermuda might have scored on at least two occasions were it not for good goalkeeping or desperate blocks. Despite the pressure, Bermuda held firm and saw the game out to earn a valuable point.
Haiti finished with 14 attempts on goal with four causing a serious threat, while Bermuda had nine attempts with three resulting in desperate blocks by either the goalkeeper or defenders.
Well done, Kyle Lightbourne, the coaching staff and players. With a little more composure in the attacking third, goals should come. It is one down and five to go! Having held the highest-ranked team in our group to a draw, a top-two finish is within reach.