Sporting their white GT&T tops and black skirts, the Guyanese women faced their first day of competition in the Central American and Caribbean Games against the Dominican Republic and went down 4-1. The two teams had never met in competition but while the Dominican Republic can boast a semi-final berth at the previous games, Guyana entered this battle with a higher world ranking.
After two days of high winds and chilly conditions, the Vera Cruz sun came out in time for Guyana’s first match, which was scheduled for 13:00hrs local time (12:00hrs Guyana time) Saturday. Both teams seemed ready for the challenge at the opening whistle as spectators seemed in for a balanced match.
The opening 15 minutes of the game however seemed to tilt in the favour of the Dominicans as the Guyanese midfield and wing backs found it tough to adjust to the unusual bounce of the artificial pitch. With the Dominicans holding the slight advantage in possession, their first goal through the most unusual of circumstances as an overhead pass into Guyana’s scoring circle found striker Agustina Birocho unmarked. Guyanese goalkeeper Alysa Xavier advanced to meet the ball but appeared surprised by the height of its bounce while Birocho reach high into the air with her stick and with the gentlest of taps put her team ahead by guiding the ball into the back of the net.
The Dominicans were rewarded once again for their aggressive play through the goal hungry Birocho. Upon received a penalty corner pass to the left, Birocho unleashed a reverse shot into the far corner of the Guyanese goal.
Finding themselves in a competitive match but down by two goals at the half, Guyana seemed a bit more settled in the second half and strung together some constructive build-ups to threaten the Dominican defence. The final pass however always seemed to elude the Guyanese strikers as they failed to make an impact on the score sheet. The Dominicans absorbed the Guyanese pressure and managed to capitalize on two chances both from the left side to advance their score by two more to 4-0. With time fading and a margin almost too great to overcome, Guyana finally managed a breakthrough as midfielder Leigh Sandison smashed a through pass into the scoring circle which was deflected by Shebiki Baptiste onto the stick of Kerensa Fernandes who scored Guyana’s opening goal of the tournament. Although Guyana made several promising runs late in the game the Dominicans had only to slow the tempo and await the final whistle leaving them the victors by 4 goals to 1.
Team Guyana next face defending champions Trinidad whom they have never beaten in recent times. Guyana would need a pair of wins in their next two matches to remain in contention for their first ever semi-final spot in the games. Head coach Philip Fernandes indicated that his team will improve throughout the tournament as they always do but the matchup against Trinidad is a difficult one. Fernandes indicated that the lack of match practice and training time on an artificial pitch continues to be the biggest challenge to the team producing better results. Although the loss in their opening match was a huge blow, Fernandes is optimistic that Guyana still has a chance of doing well and is not completely out of the medal hunt quite as yet.
Guyana’s next match is scheduled for 13:00hrs today 17th November against Trinidad with the final pool match being two days later against Bermuda. Trinidad beat Bermuda earlier on in the day by 5 – 0.
In the tournament’s other pool, Cuba defeated Jamaica by 4-0 while hosts Mexico earned a 2-0 victory over Barbados.
The opening ceremony for the Central American and Caribbean Games set the tone for a spectacular games as the hosts, Vera Cruz put on a dazzling display of music, pageantry, lights and fireworks. The games were then officially opened by Cabinet Secretary, Senior Miguel Angel Osorio Chong, who welcomed the participants and visitors and encouraged a spirit of competitiveness and togetherness. The finale threw the crowd into further frenzy as it was capped off by a surprise performance from international Latin superstar Ricky Martin.
The Guyanese contingent was well represented by chef-de-mission, Deion Nurse, flag bearer Gabriella Xavier of hockey and the small but vociferous contingent of Guyanese athletes.
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