The Cayman Islands Under 20 Men’s National Football Team secured their first victory in Group F as they defeated Guyana 3-2 on Tuesday afternoon at the CONCACAF Men’s Under 20 Championships in Bradenton, Florida.
Playing their second game in three days, the local team were looking to capitalize on a positive performance against Group F favorites El Salvador on Sunday evening.
Confidence was high against Guyana, a team that had slumped to a 4-0 defeat to Guatemala in the group’s opening game, but football is a cruel sport and past results count for nothing once teams take the field.
The Cayman squad began the game on the defensive as the Guyanese moved the ball with fluidity around the field, frequently switching flanks with crisp passes. Cayman appeared disjointed and seemed to be finding it difficult to settle into their game. Passes were going astray and mistakes were being made, and it was from one such mistake that Guyana took the lead.
In the 5th minute, a Guyanese attacker capitalized on a poor defensive pass to blast a shot past Cayman’s Albertini Holness into the goal – 1-0 to Guyana. Frustrated, Cayman attempted to make amends for their poor start but failed to take control of the game as Guyana continued to dominate possession. In the 36th minute, the Cayman coaching staff made a tactical switch as Corey Mellaneo made way for Rohelio Wright.
In the 43rd minute, Cayman were awarded a penalty as Leighton Thomas was upended in the Guyanese penalty area. Holness stepped up to send the Guyanese goalkeeper the wrong way and tie the score at 1-1.
As the halftime whistle blew, the Cayman squad’s performance had been below their usual standard, but they were still in the game. The second half began much the same as the first, with Guyana dominating much of the possession.
In the 57th minute, Kameron Mendez replaced Leighton Thomas to inject a little more pace up front. Almost immediately, Cayman took the lead as Kareem Foster pounced on a loose ball in the Guyanese penalty area, before neatly placing his shot past the outstretched hands of the Guyanese goalie.
Cayman’s lead only lasted barely two minutes as Guyana equalized in the 59th, capitalizing on yet another lapse in the Cayman defense.
With the score locked at two each, play swung from end to end as both teams scrabbled for the winning goal and the resulting three points.
In the 67th minute, an unlikely hero emerged for the Cayman Islands as left back Jabari Campbell settled the encounter with a near-perfect shot from just outside the penalty area that hit the underside of the cross bar before crossing the goal line. Cayman were up 3-2 and although there were opportunities for both nations to add to the score line, it was not to be.
Although it was not a stellar performance, the three points from their first tournament victory were a welcome reward to the Cayman side for a tough morning of football.
The Cayman Islands’ remaining games in the 2018 CONCACAF Under 20 Men’s Championships include Guatemala on Thursday and Curacao on Saturday.