The central defense partnership for Puerto Rico were not only rock solid at the back, they provided the power in front of goal that secured the second win for the home side. A goal in each half from set-pieces was enough for them to claim maximum points so far in the Digicel Cup. On 25 minutes John Krause opened the scoring as he pounced on a loose ball in the penalty area following a free kick from the left wing. Any top class striker would have been proud of Krause’s swivel and right-footed shot that left the St. Martin keeper stranded. It simply had too much power, it managed to fly through a crowded penalty area which made it impossible to stop.
Puerto Rico started the game very brightly and should have been ahead after just five minutes. Their winger, Noah Delgado was instrumental in creating the chance but could have been guilty of over elaboration in front of goal. Delgado was involved again soon after as he collected a corner on the edge of the box, this time he played a perfect ball on the head of Christopher Megaloudis who headed just over. A good move on 24 minutes resulted in a goal being correctly ruled out for off-side, but it was just a matter of time before they broke the deadlock. Puerto Rico was completely dominant and deserved their lead when Krause buried his chance.
St. Martin did not offer much going forward in the first half, indeed their first shot came after 17 minutes and it was a very speculative effort from their centre forward Derville Virgile. They did win a corner on 29 minutes but nothing came from it.
Puerto Rico continued to press forward, their two wingers were alternating flanks and their fullbacks were getting forward. St Martin was finding it difficult to cope with the pace and skill of Puerto Rico’s wide players. Joshua Hansen was at the end of a sweeping move down the right flank when he acrobatically flicked a low cross with his right heel only to be denied by an excellent reaction stop from David Santil in the St. Martin goal. It was a great effort from Hansen. St. Martin somehow managed to get to half-time only one goal behind.
The rain was beginning to disturb proceeding again as the pitch worsened in the second half. While we did not have the surface water we had on Saturday, the players were finding it difficult to find their footing on the extremely soft surface. No doubt this had a negative effect on the quality of play and the pace of the game dropped considerably.
St. Martin did perform much better in the second period where they enjoyed more possession but filed to seriously threaten the Puerto Rico goal. There had a number of crosses floated into the danger area, this appeared like their best route to a possible opening. However, the commanding figure of Terence Boss in the Puerto Rico goal was a match to every effort from the St. Martin attack. With the match at one-nil, Puerto Rico were always vulnerable to a break-away goal so you could sense they were slightly uneasy with the situation, head coach Colin Clarke referred to this in the post-match press conference “when the match was one-nil we could not relax, you just don’t know what could happen, so the second goal was crucial for us.”
The second goal was scored from a corner kick when an in swinging ball from the left was met by the glancing head of Cristian Arrieta. Again it was a great finish from the big central defender, his determination got him to the ball first and the delivery was good enough that all it needed was the correctly angled touch from Arrieta. There was a little over 10 minutes left at this point so realistically there was no way back for St. Martin.
The St. Martin coach said, “we knew this was going to be our hardest match in the Group, they (Puerto Rico) have a very good squad of players with excellent technical ability, we had an opportunity on Saturday that we should have made more of.” He continued, “we are right next to Anguilla so have played them regularly in recent times, we have done well against them but tournament play can be different, we have to be ready for a battle on Wednesday.”
When asked about how he would approach Wednesday’s match against the Cayman Islands, Puerto Rico coach Clarke responded by saying, “like all our matches, we have to go out and attack. We are aware Cayman are a good side and they showed that tonight by scoring four goals but we have to concentrate on our abilities and I am confident we can get a positive result.”
The Digicel Cup Group A is in the balance. Hosts Puerto Rico is in pole position but could face their stiffest test so far on Wednesday. It is all to play for with an opportunity for a good performing second placed team to go through to stage 2 depending on results in Group’s B and C.