Cayman Islands 0
Puerto Rico 4
Cayman Islands Olympic women’s team went into this match full of optimism but enthusiasm and positive attitude alone does not win matches. Yes, they were excellently prepared, fitter than they’ve ever been and bursting to do well. But it wasn’t enough at the playing field in North Side.
Puerto Rico had a reputation for being skilful and well organised and not much more. But they more than matched Cayman physically and once they settled were more or less in control throughout.
Cayman skipper Krishan Welcome had promised anything but a warm welcome for the visitors and initially it worked. Most of the play was in the Cayman half in the opening exchanges but Puerto Rico never really threatened with the home defence looking solid. Jannee Welcome especially started well and Brianna Hydes looked far better than a kid of 13 should do in a match of this magnitude. Shenell Gall worked hard up front mostly by herself and one dazzling run produced some excitement but she ran out of space.
Puerto Rico pressed and probed and got their breakthrough when a deft ball from midfield found captain Patricia Chapa Davila in the middle and she slotted past the advancing Judy Rivers.
It was a blow but things got worse almost straight away when from a corner the gigantic Rocio Margarita Hernandez timed her run perfectly to volley from close range at the far post. Cayman were at fault there, sloppy marking their downfall.
The match was effectively sealed in the closing moments before the break when Ivonne Valentin beat the offside trap and with Cayman’s back line all appealing she breezed through for the third.
Now Cayman were playing for pride in the heavy rain. The visitors adapted better in the slippery conditions but at least after half time Cayman did not give up.
Their legendary fighting spirit shone in the bleak evening light. Puerto Rico must have been surprised at their intensity. It inspired a section of the massive crowd of over 500 to start singing a medley of songs which began with Bob Marley’s Three Little Birds: ‘Don’t worry, ’bout a thing, cos every little thing, going to be alright’ they bawled to much amusement. Then they moved on to a couple of dancehall classics before finishing on God Save the Queen. Nice touch and it must have warmed the hearts of the battling Caymanians.
Hernandez headed just wide from a free kick before they got their fourth when Alicia Marie Tirelli headed in from a free kick. Rivers got her hand to it. She had a good game despite the scoreline.
Bernie Bush, team manager, had his daughter Shakeina in the side. He took a lot of positives from the game. ‘Everyone saw how they fought to the end. In fact, in the last 15 minutes we actually had the pressure on them. You have to find a silver lining on most dark clouds. I think we were trying to counter-attack but it didn’t pay off because of two mistakes in the back. The first two goals were mistakes on our part. It was not that they really outworked or outplayed us. They were technically better than us, I think, but it’s something that we can build on. We know where we are now.
‘This was our first international home match in four or five years. And a good thing about tonight was that five or six of the younger girls who could have started were injured. They sat on the sideline and saw the mistakes. So it’s good now when they get back on the field and work out what they’re going to do.
‘Young Alyssa Chin came on and played on the left side and that made a big difference straight away. I was praying they wouldn’t use her because she’s one of the better ones for the Under-17 squad and she’s only 13. And you could see the size of those women out there. Hernandez is about 6ft 2in! Their sweeper was another. She’s about 160lbs of muscle.
‘Keeping in mind we had five kids there under the age of 16. We know now where we have to build from here. Regardless of the score, one thing I always ask my teams is not to give up and they didn’t.’
Bush still believes they can do well against Haiti on Sunday night at the same venue. Kick off 7.30pm. Haiti play Puerto Rico tonight in the second match of the Group D Olympic qualifiers.
Bush added: ‘Knowing these girls and knowing how they reacted in Jamaica I think they’re going to be fighting even harder. It’ll be interesting to see what happens between Haiti and Puerto Rico. I’m hoping for a miracle.
‘I’m happy to see so many members of the public come out tonight despite the bad weather and they were behind the girls until the end and even singing. This is unheard of in Cayman sports and I’ve got goose bumps. It made me proud to see the crowd really behind them. One of the injured girls was amazed that they were chanting. I really thank them all. Please come out again on Sunday.’
CAYMAN: Judy Rivers, Cassandra Bodden, Sophia Dilbert, Jannee Welcome, Shenell Gall, Krishan Welcome (c), Telicia Ebanks, Shakeina Bush, Heather Orahood, Brianna Hydes, Sophia Roberts. Subs: Patrice Myles, Brittany Schirn, Alyssa Chin, Ariella Smith, Kimberly Pitta, Shynae Watson, Emily Kelly.