Digicel Cup Game 16: Suriname 2 St. Lucia 1

Suriname booked their place in stage 2 of the Digicel Cup with a good performance in front of a large following at their National Stadium. It will come down to their tie versus local rivals Guyana on Sunday to decide who tops Group C.

It was important for the home side to get an early goal to settle the demanding crowd, and they did just that.  On 15 minutes the ball was played to Stefano Rijssel on the edge of the area, although there was a good few yellow shirts around, he managed to take a good first touch which created a descent shooting angle and fired an absolute scorcher into the top corner on the near side of the goal. It was the sweetest of strikes, we will be fortunate to see as good a connection in this Digicel Cup.

Like Guyana in the first match, Suriname continued to dominate possession and control the tempo. St. Lucia allowed the opposition to come at with the strategy of trying to attack on the break.  They did just that on 23 minutes when they got their first corner from which they had a chance but fired just over.

Emelio Limon was pulling the strings in midfield for Suriname and it was his break down the right on 38 minutes that created the opening for Naldo Kwaise.  Limon beat one defender then played a superb back heal when the 2nd challenge came, for Kwaise to collect the ball at pace, he knocked the ball toward the bye-line only to go down from the St. Lucian challenge.  The referee, Ignatius Baptiste, pointed straight to the spot.  The St. Lucia coach Alain Prosper had a serious issue with the penalty decision, commenting after “all we are looking for is a level of consistency from the officials, this was a harsh decision.”

With the penalty hero from Wednesday night, Goalkeeper Ronny Alomea, sidelined with injury, Ives Vlijter stepped up to strike a powerful shot straight down the middle and rattle the back of the net.  The Surinamese crowd were very pleased with their team as they went down the tunnel at half-time with a comfortable two goal lead, as was coach Ricardo Winter, “we started the game very well and were outstanding controlling the ball and pressing forward and this resulted in us scoring two very good goals, I was very content at half-time.”

The first half of the second period did not provide the entertainment levels of the first period.  The match seemed to be heading for a comfortable evening’s work for the home side.

Heading to the mid-way point, both side’s made substitutions but the forced change from Suriname removing Limon on 62 minutes had a significant impact. St. Lucia came into the game more and began to threaten the Suriname goal, their substitutions also having a positive effect on their midfield.

With 71 minutes gone the St. Lucia left sided midfielder hung a deep cross toward the back post, it seemed to stall in the air for an eternity, striker Zacchaeus Polius kept his eye on it the whole way and managed the rise the highest to head the ball back across the goal into the back of the net.  Although they still had a goal cushion, the crowd was stunned to silence in the anticipation of a nervous final period of the match.

St. Lucia did create a scramble in the Suriname penalty area with 10 minutes remaining but that was the only really nervous moment, had the ball taken a kinder bounce for the young St. Lucian side, it could have been the equalizer.

Suriname regrouped in the final 10 minutes to create a number of chances that could have sealed it and probably on the balance of play deserved their victory, coach Winter remarked afterwards, “in the second half we started well but when we substituted Emelio who has an injury, we found ourselves under pressure from a strengthened St. Lucian midfield.” “We will have to control possession and the tempo if we want to win our final match on Sunday, whoever manages to get the first goal is likely to come out on top.”

While Suriname and Guyana are sure to progress to stage 2 of the Digicel Cup, it comes down to their head to head decider on Sunday to see who will top the group.  Although both St. Lucia and Netherlands Antilles have not managed to pick up a point, it has been a very competitive group to date and in many ways they have been unfortunate.