St. Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG) were the architects of their own demise as they conceded their third own goal in two games, this time against Anguilla at a time when they could least afford such a lapse: their final game of the Digicel Caribbean Championships’ Group E.
The “Vincy Heat” knew before hand that three points were an absolute necessity, with Grenada currently positioned to qualify for the next round from Group A (as the worst 2nd place qualifier), on three points with a neutral goal difference, SVG knew they would have to overturn their 3-0 defeat versus Martinique in the opening match of DCC’s Group E, with at least 4 goals against Anguilla.
With pressure to perform on the night, an early goal would have been the best remedy to soothe early jitters for the Vincentian’s, against an unknown quantity in Anguilla. Surprisingly though, it was Anguilla who fired the first salvo of the match in minute ten through Glenville Allen.
This stirred the Vincentians to action as they fired off three shots in quick succession, to establish their own offensive intentions. In the early going it was Emerald George that showed a little sparkle, with his express pace chasing down balls played over the top. However Anguilla’s defensive posture soon cut off the avenues along the flanks, forcing the Vincentians to play narrower, which lead to midfield gridlock for the opening half an hour.
Anguilla defended the Fort with all they had, and did well to limit the Vincentians to difficult shooting opportunities, whilst still looking for opportunities to counter attack mainly through playmaker Simon Anthony – which seems to have been their game plan all along.
But the fuse for this match was well and truly lit in minute 37 as Darren Francis snuck in at the far post to knee in a cross delivered from the right by standout performer Myron Samuel, to take the score to 1-0 in favour of SVG.
Shockingly, St. Vincent would shoot themselves in the foot just 1 minute after having taken the lead, when a looped back header from Troy Jeffers proved to be a Trojan horse for goalkeeper Winslow McDonald who sold the farm when he came to collect the ball at the edge of the 18 yard box only to see it arc over his head into an empty net, and bring parity to a match that was up to this point clearly one sided.
That own goal by Jeffers was SVG’s third in two games, but few would have thought it would prove so costly, as SVG looked like they could score with each forward move.
But they weren’t tied for long as just a minute later a third goal was scored, this time in the goal they were meant to, as a low sweeping shot from Darren Hammlet on the right side of the box got SVG back on track, with Anguilla tragically sluggish in their reaction to the danger inside their own 18 yard box.
To their credit, the Vincy Heat would turn up the temperature for the remainder of the half, but never quite reach a boil, creating chance after chance only to see clumsy touches and wayward shooting squander what the midfield had worked hard to create.
The second half saw SVG burst out of the gates through Myron Samuel once more, when he was taken down in the box by Kevin Hawley’s late challenge from behind. Darren Francis would step up to take the spot kick; but with the spotlight on him, he was unable to find a way past the glare of keeper Kelvin Liddie.
With two more goals an absolute minimum for SVG, they continued to press, their improved passing found new angles for shots on goal but it would take the individual brilliance of the number ten Myron Samuels to halve that target. Samuel would pick up a loose pass some 30 yards from goal, knock it around his man, recollect it on the other side, before producing a majestic finish with the outside of the left boot that saw the ball rise up into the top left corner.
The goal was a masterpiece, and considering it was Samuels first at international level, all the more sweet. However, Samuels and SVG couldn’t savour the flavour for long, as their goal chase continued to intensify with each minute that passed.
With time as their enemy, and in spite of their best efforts that saw a header cleared off the line, Liddie left stranded with the net agape, and countless one on ones with the SVG keeper, somehow fate and plucky Anguillan defensive work kept the Vincentians at bay. And when the final whistle blew, you may not have realized SVG had won the match 3-1, as both teams left the field looking like broken teams, the Vincentians dreams in tatters- despite not allowing a shot on goal from the Anguillans.
To be fair though Anguilla still may harbour some hope of qualifying to the next phase in Trinidad, even though it means they’ll have to beat host Martinique by a margin of at least three goals if they are to advance to the Knockout stage of the Digicel Caribbean Championships 2008.
Anguilla: 1. Kelvin Liddie, 2. Nigel Conner (6. Adonijah Richardson min 76), 3. Girdon Conner, 4. Kapil Battice, 5. Kevin Hawley, 7. Denville Francis (16. Gaekwad St. Hillaire min 71), 8. Leon Jeffers, 9. Glenville Allen, 10. Walwyn Benjamin, 12. Simon Anthony, 14. Cleo Hamm (15. Lucien Flemine min 88)
Subs: 13. Colin Johnson.
St. Vincent: 1. Winslow McDowell, 3. Roy Richards, 4. Chester Morgan, 5. Darren Francis, 6. Troy Jeffers (14. Keith James min 62),8. Theon Gordon, 9. Richard Hayde, 10. Myron Samuel, 13. Dorren Hammlet (15. Ransel Badnock min 74),16. Reginald Payne (11. Steve Henry min 77), 17. Emerald George,
Subs: 2. Jolan-Shoy McDonald, 7. Amon Bascombe, 12. Teron Miller, 18. Camilli Samuel.