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Montserrat leave Bermuda’s Gold Cup qualification hanging by a thread

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Montserrat 3 Bermuda 2

Nahki Wells applies pressure to Nathan Pond, the Montserrat defender, during their Concacaf Nations League B group tie in the Estadio Olímpico Félix Sánchez in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, on Saturday night. Montserrat won 3-2 to put Bermuda's chances of qualifying for the Gold Cup in grave jeopardy (Photograph by Nelson Pulido/Concacaf/Straffon Images)

Bermuda’s prospects of qualifying for the Concacaf Gold Cup took a dive on Saturday when they came out on the wrong end of a wild, five-goal second half at the Estadio Olímpico Félix Sánchez in the Dominican Republic.

Captain Nahki Wells had a goal and assist for Willie Clemons but it was the home side who created the greater chances and three times took the lead, with their captain, Lyle Taylor, helping himself to a brace.

Taylor’s second with three minutes left after an excellent team move proved a mountain too far for Kyle Lightbourne’s side, who prop up Nations League B group B on a solitary point from three matches played.

Bermuda captain Nahki Wells had a goal and an assist in a losing cause (File photograph by Akil Simmons)

Bermuda came into this match knowing that it was a must-win, despite Haiti providing a massive lift with their 6-2 demolition of Guyana in the earlier kick-off at the National Track and Field Centre at Leonora.

A positive result combined with a second Haiti win over Guyana on Tuesday and the expected three points from the cancellation of the home tie against Montserrat would leave Bermuda’s fate in their own hands heading into the March 2023 international window.

Lightbourne made two changes, one enforced after centre half Jalen Harvey was sent off for violent conduct late in the 2-1 defeat by Guyana. Knory Scott was his replacement, with Reece Jones Jr slotting in alongside Leverock in a back three with Daniel Cook.

The other change saw Wells paired with his third strike partner in as many matches, with Luke Robinson drafted in in place of Jonté Smith.

Dale Eve was by far the busier of the two goalkeepers in the opening half, with Montserrat letting their intentions be known early after an encouraging performance in a 3-2 defeat by group favourites Haiti on Tuesday.

The period in the ascendancy for the home side coincided with forward Robinson being off for extensive treatment to a gash over his right eye. With every minute of his prolonged absence, Montserrat’s pressure intensified with first Taylor and then Adrian Clifton drawing smart saves from the Bermuda goalkeeper.

Bermuda’s frustration over not being able to get their foot on the ball was visible to the point of boiling, as Montserrat were far more at ease in possession and were using width well to get their runners in dangerous positions.

However, where Eve was not on hand to produce his typical acrobatics, Leverock and Jones got their bodies in the way in a backs-to-the-wall effort that was reminiscent of the goalless draw against Haiti last Saturday.

The threat that Bermuda could possess finally manifested itself with 39 minutes on the clock when Robinson rode a tackle and found a bit of space for Wells. The Bristol City striker instinctively turned his marker and got off a shot that had Montserrat goalkeeper Kymani Nelson diving desperately to his left to see it go just wide of the upright.

By then, Bermuda had lost Roger Lee to a suspected hamstring injury, while Montserrat’s Dean Mason went off with a groin problem as the exertions of a fast-paced first half took their toll.

Keishon Bean replaced Lee but it was Montserrat’s substitute, Brandon Barzey, who had a significant impact on the match.

The second half was barely under way when Robinson conceded a penalty for a naive tackle on the marauding Barzey just inside left-hand side of Eve’s penalty area.

Taylor sent the Bermuda goalkeeper the wrong way with a calmness that personified his play on the night, giving Montserrat a lead they were good value for.

But it is not for no reason that Montserrat are ranked 178th in the world, conceding the equaliser rather inexplicably within six minutes.

Wells was quick to sniff out a short goal-kick routine between Nathan Pond and goalkeeper Nelson, and picked the pocket of the goalkeeper after a heavy touch before squaring to the late-arriving Clemons, who got his feet sorted and slotted past Pond into the unguarded net.

This should have been the impetus for Bermuda to kick on, and Lightbourne sensed it as well by making a triple substitution on the hour to replace Robinson, Lejaun Simmons and Scott with Kole Hall, Riley Robinson and Djair Parfitt respectively.

But before this trio had had time to really settle and establish themselves, Bermuda were picking the ball out of the net again.

A cross was nodded on in the middle by the ever-active Barzey and Clifton popped up on the back post unmarked to steer it past Eve. A retreating Jones made a despairing attempt to clear off the line but the referee’s assistant had his flag up correctly to confirm a good goal.

It took a piece of individual magic from Wells to draw Bermuda level for a second time and end a frustrating personal spell for the captain, who spurned no fewer than two glorious chances in the Guyana defeat.

Here, he picked up the ball 35 yards out after a breakdown and ran at the retreating defence, creating a yard of space on his left foot with an artful step-over and burying his shot low inside the right upright.

But, just as after the first equaliser, Bermuda then ceded territory and were forced to play on the back foot.

Montserrat, who had been earlier unfortunate when a low Barzey cross beat Eve but rebounded past an attacker and into his arms off the inside of the far upright, would not be denied — and it was their big three who did the damage again.

Barzey ran at the backline and dished off to Clifton, who had been played onside by Jones and then had the simple task of aiming a pass into the path of Taylor to slot home past an exposed Eve.

It was a goal similar in its simplicity to the winner Bermuda conceded in first-half stoppage time to Guyana in midweek, and evidence if any were needed that Lightbourne needs to do more work on the training ground.

With no return fixture against Montserrat now on the cards, and the next competitive international not until March next year, he will have ample time to do so.


Montserrat: Taylor 48 pen, 85, Clifton 67

Bermuda: Clemons 54, Wells 78


Montserrat (4-5-1): K Nelson — M Williams, N Pond, C Braham, K Strawbridge — B Comley, J Comley, A Clifton (sub: J McDonald, 90min), A Dyer, D Mason (sub: B Barzey, 38) — L Taylor. Substitutes not used: J Kirnon, L Duberry, L Kirnon, S Mendes, S Weir, B Woods, S Rodney. Booked: B Comley.

Bermuda (3-5-2): D Eve — R Jones Jr, D Leverock, D Cook — L Simmons (sub: R Robinson, 60), W Clemons, R Lee (sub: K Bean, 28), K Scott (sub: D Parfitt, 60), R Lambe (sub: E Russell, 87) — L Robinson (sub: K Hall, 60), N Wells. Substitutes not used: D Bell, Q Hunt, M Hardtman, N Paynter, J Smith, M Christian.

Referee: A Carrasco (Dominican Republic).

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Published June 13, 2022 at 7:44 am (Updated June 13, 2022 at 7:52 am)

Montserrat leave Bermuda’s Gold Cup qualification hanging by a thread

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