Close control from Mickael Nicoise (C) for Guadeloupe. Photo: digicelfootball.com
STADE DE RIVIERE PILOTE, Martinique — Guadeloupe needed a win, whereas a draw would have been enough to see Antigua and Barbuda claim a semi-final berth in the Digicel Caribbean Cup.
With Guadeloupe requiring all three points, it ensured fans would not have to endure the stalemate of Tuesday night’s opener, and the crowd certainly turned out at Riviere Pilote to witness the occasion.
Guadeloupe opened the brighter side and asserted most of the early pressure and, with Belson gaining control of the middle of the park, the tactic of bringing their wide players into play was evident right from the start.
The first real action came after 15 minutes when a great pass was sprayed diagonally from the Guadeloupe defence to the right winger Nabab, who played a neat interchange with Loval but then strayed offside for the return pass. It was a tight call and prevented a clear chance on goal.
Antigua relied mainly on set pieces in the opening exchanges to create their danger moments and, while Guadeloupe coped well, one could sense Antigua’s anticipation when the chances arose, as they pushed their big men forward.
There was a penalty shout for Guadeloupe on 20 minutes, when again good work down the right side resulted in a low cross being delivered across the face of the goal and just when attacker was going to strike, he was bundled to the ground. Fair challenge, judged the referee.
On 33 minutes, Guadeloupe won good possession in midfield and had a chance to break. They created an opening down the inside left channel, only for the attacker’s first touch to let him down. Had he managed to get it under control he would have had a very good shooting chance. An opportunity wasted, one felt.
Guadeloupe continued to dominate possession and pile on the pressure. It paid off when, on 41 minutes, a cross from the left hand bye line from Cedric Collet into a crowded penalty area was diverted goalwards by the Jean Luc Lamboude. It was a vital touch as no defender in a yellow shirt was able to prevent it reaching the back of the net. A crucial intervention from the central defender, who was in the right place at the right time.
Antigua came out in the second half and posed a more attacking threat from the beginning. It was now up to them to force the issue if they wanted to stay in the competition.
However, this tactic was going to allow space at the back for Guadeloupe to exploit and this they very nearly did on two occasions in the opening 15 minutes of the half. Both chances were set up by Collet down the left. The first one fell to the head of Gendrey, when he managed to climb highest at the back post but could not divert the chance goalward.
The second chance came on 60 minutes when a left hand cross was headed back across the goals for Mickael Nicoise to control well inside the box and shoot low toward the goal, only to be denied by the post. It was a very good sequence from Guadeloupe, which deserved better.
The mid period of the second half was even, with neither side creating a clear cut chance. Antigua pushed more men forward as the half wore on and it was Guadeloupe who were now relying on the counter attack.
With 7 minutes remaining, Antigua had their best chance of the match when, from a long ball, Peter Byers was in a race to the ball with the Guadeloupe keeper Yohann Bus. Luckily for Guadeloupe, Bus was brave and got down well at the feet of the Antiguan striker.
With 5 minutes to go, Antigua made life a little more difficult when Dave Carr got sent off for his second bookable offence.
Antigua continued to throw men forward in the remaining minutes, especially from set piece opportunities. On 90 minutes, they had Bus in trouble from a well delivered cross, when he failed to claim the ball and appeared to collide with the Antiguan attacker inside the box. The referee gave a free out when many thought it could have been a penalty.
This was the last opportunity from Antigua and Barbuda, who did their nation proud in the competition.
1 Yohann Bus 4 Ulick Lupede (46 mins 2. Kevin Lacroix) 6 Stephane Auvray (Captain) 7. Mickael Nicoise (79 mins 5. Dominique Mocka) 10. Gregory Gendrey 12. Cedric Collet (69 mins 19. Larry Clavier) 13 Jean Luc Lomboude 14 Julien Ictoi 15. Livio Nabab 18 Eddy Viator 20 Loic Loval
Coach: Roger Salnot
Antigua & Barbuda:
1 Molvin James 2. Ranja Christian (61 mins 14. Randolph Burton) 4 Karanja Mack 5. Dave Carr 6 Joshua Parker 7 Gason Gregory 10. Desmind Bleau (74 mins 9. Kerry Skepple) 16. Peter Byers (90 mins 11. Jamie Thomas) 17 George Dublin (Captain) 19 Martin McCoy 20 Akeem Thomas
Coach: Rowan Benjamin
Referee: Walter Lopez (Guatemala)
Assistant Referee 1 – Dion Neil (Trinidad & Tobago)
Assistant Referee 2 – Graeme Browne (St. Kitts & Nevis)
Commissioner – Hubert Isenia (Curacao)