Bermuda assume pole position in super-tight Nations League group
Bermuda 3 St Vincent & the Grenadines 1
Bermuda remain in contention for promotion to the top tier of Concacaf Nations League after despatching St Vincent & the Grenadines in convincing fashion in the League B group C encounter at a wind and rain-swept Flora Duffy Stadium last night.
Goals from Ne-Jai Tucker, Kane Crichlow and Djair Parfitt-Williams guided Michael Findlay’s side to all three points with Nazir McBurnette grabbing a consolation for St Vincent.
The victory, coupled with Belize’s last-ditch 1-0 win over French Guiana, ensured Bermuda top the group, a point clear of French Guiana, ahead of the teams’ meeting in a crucial final group clash in Martinique on Tuesday.
Belize, also on seven points, one clear of St Vincent, also remain firmly in the hunt for promotion, while the latter are not entirely out of it, either. But they would have to beat Belize by six goals while hoping Bermuda and French Guiana draw.
While having mixed feelings about the team’s display, Bermuda head coach Findlay was delighted that his players did what was required of them.
“I'm very pleased, we knew we needed three points tonight to keep ourselves in contention for promotion,’’ he said.
“First and foremost we have to be pleased with the result, we've got ourselves three points and means on Tuesday night that we’re playing for promotion to League A in the Concacaf Nations League.
“The performance was OK, I say that with all respect to the players, I think we made it difficult for ourselves at times.
“We’re going through a process right now of developing a certain game model, a certain way of play, and that comes with danger at times. It comes with us trying to find out more about ourselves in that process.
“There were some parts of the game I was really pleased with, and there was parts of the game I was disappointed with, which we will address.
“We made a step forward, I was very happy with the fighting mentality that they showed, which we talked about in the previous St Vincent game where we kind of lost our way a bit, and didn't fight for ourselves.
“Tonight, we definitely fought for ourselves in some very difficult conditions, and against a team that can make it very difficult for you.
“I'm really excited about that last game, I'm excited for the players, they've put themselves into a position that they’re playing for something.
“Nobody can take away how hard it is to play in Concacaf right now — the travel, the environments like we saw tonight, weather conditions, all sorts of different scenarios.
“The suffering that’s gone on is now being rewarded with coming to play a match that's going to give them promotion.
“In football, you don't play through something like that all the time so they should embrace it.”
As emotions ran high, Findlay was shown a yellow card by referee Jaime Herrera, of El Salvador. He shed light on what led to that incident.
“That’s part of football,’’ he said. “Emotions, passion comes along and he chose to book me, he has the right to do that.
“It was just my feeling of protecting my players, I felt they [St Vincent] were taking liberties and I made the fourth official aware of that, which I felt was in a respectful way. He obviously didn't, but you have to stand up for your players.
“It was a physical match, I felt they were taking a few liberties in the end, and that’s what sort of got me emotional.
“They’re a very physical team, they were very physical in St Vincent & the Grenadines and they were very physical tonight.
“That’s what makes them dangerous, they're very direct, they’re very athletic so teams likes ours which are very technical and want to build their game, it can become very difficult.”
Bermuda put the pressure on their opponents from the start, and were rewarded in the sixth minute when Tucker had the ball in the back of the net.
Four minutes later, Jai Bean, impressive throughout for Bermuda, wasted a glorious opportunity to make it 2-0. After intercepting a back-pass, Bean rounded goalkeeper Lemus Christopher, but delayed and then saw his effort blocked on the line by Jamal Yorke.
Parfitt-Williams then had an effort blocked by Christopher, before Tucker was denied by the woodwork with his header coming off the cross bar.
The visitors slowly found their rhythm and levelled in the 33rd minute. A neat exchange of passes saw Nazir McBurnette’s effort from outside the box take a wicked deflection to beat the helpless Eve.
Bermuda regained the lead two minutes before the break, Crichlow pouncing on the rebound following a Parfitt-Williams delivery into the box.
The two-goal advantage was restored four minutes into the second half courtesy of a low driven strike by Parfitt-Williams, after a delightful cross by substitute Zeiko Lewis.
Bean had a chance to score in the 64th minute when the flag stayed down, only for hesitation to allow the St Vincent defence to recover, with another block on the line to deny Bermuda a fourth goal of the match.
Bermuda: Tucker 6, Crichlow 43, Parfitt-Williams 49
St Vincent: McBurnette 33
Bermuda (4-2-3-1): D Eve 7 – L Simmons, J Butterfield-Steede 6, H Twite 7, D Leverock 7 – K Martin 6, N Tucker 7 (sub: A Todd 62min), J Donawa 5 (sub: Z Lewis, 46), K Crichlow 7 (sub: R Lambe, 62 5), D Parfitt-Williams 7 (sub: K Scott, 90), J Bean 7 (sub: R Coddington, 76). Substitutes not used: D Bell, A Kempe, R Jones Jr, l Robinson. Booked: Bean.
St Vincent (3-1-4-1): L Christopher 6 – N Burgin 6, J Yorke 6, J Sutherland 6 – J Barnum-Bobb 6 – S Alexander 6 (sub: A Charles, 62) – T Joseph 6 (sub: M Brown, 62 5), N McBurnette 7 (sub: O Velox, 78), D Spring 6, K Edwards 6 (sub: M Simmons, 89) – C Stewart 7. Substitutes not used: N Charles, K Joseph, K Franklyn, R Thomas, J Jack, G Francis, J Lewis, G Davis. Booked: Burgin, Sutherland, Barnum-Bobb.
Referee: J Herrera (El Salvador).