Antigua & Barbuda opened their Digicel Cup account with a hard fought 2-1 win over a strong Suriname side in front of a 4,000 strong crowd in this afternoon kick off of Group G, the final qualification round before the Digicel Cup Finals in Martinique at the end of November.
With both teams starting brightly the surprisingly large crowd for a Wednesday afternoon kick off were treated to a to and fro game of action with both Peter Byers of Antigua and Stefan Baneti for Suriname going close to opening the scoring in the early stages.
Antigua took the honours of opening the scoring on 17 minutes when the ball fell kindly to Randolph Burton who smashed into the open net from 7 yards after Gregory had rounded the keeper laid the ball to Byers, whose initial shot was blocked on the line by Abauna, with the rebound falling perfectly for the waiting Burton.
Suriname were playing nice football and looked a threat when they got on the ball moving forward decisively. On 33 minutes they deservedly drew level when Emanuelson came on to a poorly cleared header on the left and smashed his left footed effort first time from the edge of the box into the far corner of the net.
While the home fans had their cries for a penalty waved away from referee Morrison after Cochrane seemed to be felled inside the area by Felter, they were happier with their sides efforts who looked dangerous through Byers who was causing the Surinamese defence trouble with his big physical presence.
Just before half time Suriname were unlucky not to head into the interval in the lead when rising star and former Digicel Kick Start coaching recipient, Emilio Limon, saw his first time volley from the edge of the box smash down off the crossbar and away to safety.
The second half started brightly again with both sides taking the game to each other. On 54 minutes Antigua had the woodwork again to thank as the score-line somehow remained 1-1. Vlijter ran onto a long through ball which was played over the top of the Antigua defence, and as he reeled away to the corner flag to celebrate his goal-bound lobbed effort over Decastro’s head, he looked back in horror as the ball bounced back off the crossbar and in to the hands of the ever grateful Decastro.
As the old football saying goes, if you don’t take your chances it will be sure to come back to haunt you. And so it was on 63 minutes when Justin Cochrane held his marker off just inside the right side of the box, spun and turned and hooked his shoot over the helpless Huiswood into the far left corner of the net to send the large home crowd in this famous old stadium into raptures as Antigua & Barbuda went back into the lead.
Suriname tried to get back into the game but were contained to some long range shooting by a well versed Antiguan defence.
The home crowd were treated to some nervous moments with some last minute corners for Suriname but their heroes hung on for a hard fought 2-1 win to the delight of the large home crowd.
Antigua and Cuba now sit on top of Group G, joined by their single success, leaving Friday’s games delicately poised for all sides as Group G takes shape.