‘The boys put in a great shift’
Kyle Lightbourne believes there are plenty of positives to take into Bermuda’s next Concacaf Nations League matches after holding Haiti to a goalless draw in their group B opener at the Flora Duffy Stadium on Saturday.
In what proved a far from memorable opening encounter, Haiti will arguably feel aggrieved to have not come away with all three points, having created the clearer opportunities, with Carnejy Antoine and substitute Steeven Saba denied by the woodwork, while Dale Eve was on hand to keep out Ricardo Adé from close range late in the second half.
However, Lightbourne was more than contented with his side, who could have snatched victory late on through Nahki Wells and substitute Kane Crichlow, against a side that is 77 places above Bermuda in the Fifa world rankings and who had run out convincing 4-1 winners in their previous meeting last July.
It is a solid foundation that Lightbourne is confident of building on ahead of away fixtures against group leaders Guyana tomorrow at the National Track and Field Leonora Stadium before moving to a neutral venue in the Dominican Republic to face Monserrat on June 11.
“I would say we’re satisfied to have come away with a draw,” he said.
“We haven’t played as a team in a while and I think that showed, particularly in the first half, but we definitely grew into the game and could have taken more than a point in the end.
“The game plan was always to deny Haiti space. They punished us in the past and we definitely learnt our lesson coming into this game.
“No doubt Haiti will feel they should have won the game and we rode our luck at times, with Dale making some fantastic late saves, but I’m delighted. To come away with a clean sheet against the group favourites is great; the boys put in a great shift.
“There are a lot of positives to take away from this match. We’ve started with a good point and now we have to take that with us on the road in our next fixtures. We can’t get ahead of ourselves; it’s about knuckling down and going again against Guyana.”
It was the visiting side who created the first real opening after seven minutes. Derrick Étienne Jr did well do create a yard of space for himself on the left-hand side before picking out the unmarked Antoine at the back post, but his header was well saved by Eve.
Bermuda finally began to enjoy a period of possession and worked an opening in the seventeenth minute as a deep ball forward from the back found Lejaun Simmons in space on the right. His cross found its way all the way across to the other side of the area to Cook, who could only slice his left-footed effort high and wide of Alexandre Pierre’s goal.
The home side came closer to scoring in the 24th minute, as Wells did well to find strike partner Kole Hall in the area. He touched the ball down for Lambe, whose strike might have tested Pierre had it not been blocked brilliantly by Adé.
At the other end, Haiti should have broken the deadlock just before the half-hour mark. Incisive play down the right resulted in Bryan Alceus teeing up Antoine inside the area, but he could not capitalise, firing wildly over the bar when it looked easier to hit the target.
The striker came agonising close to opening the scoring four minutes later. Again, the visiting side worked the ball into the area from the right-hand side, with Antoine beating Eve with a vicious right-footed strike that crashed off the underside of the bar, and was perilously close to crossing the goalline before it was cleared away to safety.
Haiti started the second half as they ended the first, immediately getting on to the front foot. Antoine was again heavily involved, as he beat his marker on the left before sending a dangerous cross into the area, which fell to Alceus, whose close-range effort struck the side netting.
At the other end, Bermuda came close to finding a breakthrough. Wells did brilliantly to get down the right-hand side, with his low cross finding its way to the onrushing Lambe, whose low effort looked destined to find the net, only for Adé to somehow divert it wide for a corner.
After a lull in action, the home side created another opportunity in the 66th minute. Cook did well to work the ball back into the area from the left, with the ball eventually falling to Crichlow, who scooped his volley over the bar.
With 15 minutes remaining, Haiti were awarded a free kick in a dangerous position 25 yards and central to Eve’s goal. However, Adé could not capitalise as Bermuda’s wall stood firm to block his right-footed shot.
Having survived the scare, Bermuda broke and created their best chance of the match. After winning possession on the halfway line, Wells broke and played a one-two with Crichlow into the area, but the outrushing Pierre did brilliantly to close the space and deny the striker.
Back came the visiting side, who again should have broken the deadlock with nine minutes remaining. Seizing on a poor clearance, Saba had time to take a touch inside the area, but then blazed his curling effort harmlessly over Eve’s bar.
Further chances came and went, as Haiti again were inches away from taking the lead, but Dany Jean was denied by the left upright after getting on the end of Antoine’s driven cross.
Moments later, Eve had to be alert to foil Adé, who managed to stay onside to get on the end of Antoine’s flick, but could only direct his effort straight at the onrushing goalkeeper.
In the closing stages, Bermuda created one final opportunity as Crichlow raced clear down the left-hand side but could only thrash a left-footed effort wide as the sides settled for a share of the spoils.
“Obviously we wanted to go home with all three points and although Bermuda managed to frustrate us, first and foremost we didn’t play our game,” said Haiti head coach Jean-Jacques Pierre.
“One positive for me is that we created the chances and got ourselves in those situations. That is the main thing, and it is now a case of taking those chances to win games. We know we can do better and I’m confident we will in our remaining games.”
Guyana, Bermuda’s next opponents, took an early lead in the group with second-half goals by Omari Glasgow securing a 2-1 come-from-behind win over Monserrat at the Olímpico Félix Sánchez stadium in the Dominican Republic.
Bermuda play Monserrat in Dominican Republic on Saturday before returning to the Flora Duffy Stadium on June 14 for the reverse fixture to complete this international window.
The Nations League resumes in March 2023 for the final two matches — at home to Guyana and away to Haiti.