Gall magic inspires Cayman revival

Cayman Islands – 2

Haiti – 3


Gall scored a sensational goal. Photo: Ron Shillingford

Cayman women’s Olympic team can hold their heads high after giving a magnificent account of themselves against Haiti on Sunday night.

The result was insignificant because Puerto Rico had already qualified by beating both of the Group D sides at North Side. This third and final game was about restoring pride and that is exactly what Cayman did.

Haiti were group favourites and surprisingly lost 1-0 to Puerto Rico on Friday. As the Puerto Ricans had already beaten the hosts 4-0, they went through regardless.

The game started sensationally. With only 20 seconds gone Shenel Gall collected the ball on the right, cut inside the Haitian defence and fired a shot into the far corner with her weaker left foot. Many of the 700-odd crowd hadn’t even settled into their seats yet.

Moments later Shakeina Bush shaved the outside of a Haiti post from a free kick a couple of minutes later.

Haiti hit the underside of the bar from a free kick before equalising when Wisline Dolce slid home. Cayman took the lead again when Haiti captain Kencia Marseille brought down Gall. Bush placed the penalty perfectly in the top corner.

Veteran defender Solphia Dilbert was booked for a foul on the edge of the box and from the free kick Haiti hit the bar again.

Haiti equalised when from a corner, Judy Rivers palmed it away and it fell sweetly for Fiorda Charles to smack home from close range. Just before half time, from another corner on the left, the ball came through for Dolce to fire in for Haiti’s third.

The second half was much quieter with Haiti using their superior experience and technique to keep possession. They hit the post again and kept Rivers busy but there was none of the drama and excitement of the first half. At least Cayman kept on battling, hoping for an equaliser but by now Haiti, fully aware of Gall’s threat, seemed to ambush the dynamic striker whenever she got possession. She is only 16 and should do well next month at the World Cup Under-17 qualifiers in Antigua.

Worryingly for team manager Bernie Bush, his daughter Shakeina hobbled off with a suspected broken bone in her foot. She was taken to hospital by ambulance for treatment.

Jeffrey Webb, president of the Cayman Islands Football Association, said: ‘The players gained a tremendous amount of experience. A lot of these guys, this was their first experience at international level. Out of the 18 teams participating at this stage, Cayman was the youngest by far, average age only 17 or 18. We had three 13-year-olds finishing the game. Haiti have had a women’s programme for 35 years, Puerto Rico 20 years, this was our first tournament at home and we’ve only been going two years.

‘We’re looking forward now to the tournament in Antigua. These games will have given them a lot of invaluable experience for that.’

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