By Franklin Wilson in Florida, USA
Compliments of Industrial Safety Supplies,
Secure Innovation & Concepts and Fitness Express
Despite suffering three losses in their previous matches and being reduced to 9-players in the final eight (8) minutes of the match, Guyana’s future footballers saved the best for last whipping El Salvador 2-0 with goals either side of play to end the Group Stages of the Concacaf Under-20 Championship USA 2018 on a historical high.
It was the final game of ten days of riveting action among the 34 Concacaf nations battling for supremacy with only six advancing to the next stage. Having already won the group, El Salvador fancied their chances of walking over the young Golden Jaguars who were wounded from the three previous losses.
But the preverbal saying, ‘A jaguar is more dangerous when it is wounded’ was apt in this case and the Guyana team came out a different looking unit; they were businesslike from the first whistle and the rest is now history.
The solid 2-0 win over the El Salvadorians, who had already won the group and have advanced to the next stage, came mere hours before another historical day in Guyana’s history; 11:11:11. That was the day when Guyana defeated Trinidad and Tobago at the Guyana National Stadium Providence to third stage of the Concacaf World Cup Qualifying competition.
The Under-20 lads came out with their own intentions of creating a bit of history and that they did, becoming the first male junior team to ever defeat a South American opponent. The senior team drew with El Salvador 2-2 in September 2012.
Like Head Coach Wayne Dover had stated, they were going out to play hard and play for pride, losing to Guatemala 4-0 then being on the wrong end of close finishes against Cayman Islands 2-3 and Curacao, 3-4 in matches that were played in very humid conditions.
But, contesting the final match of the group stages under lights, brought a renewed vigor, zest and self-belief from the young lads who were urged on by the Guyanese supporters, some travelling as much four hours to rally with their team.
And, they were not disappointed as Guyana displayed admirable aggression from the first whistle, El Salvador not being able to match the energy levels of the Guyanese in offence or defence.
Such was the intent to be aggressive by the Guyanese that in the first 20 minutes, they had already won three corners. And with the end of the first half approaching, it was a bit nervous for some as the preceding matches produced goals in the 45th minute, mostly against Guyana.
However, this match was meant to be different when the most goal scorer and very effective Kelsey Benjamin who had been causing the El Salvadorians all sorts of trouble once he had the ball, delivered yet again for Guyana; and yes, it was the first minute of added on time (45+1).
He cut into the area from the right side and fired a powerful right footed shot that flew past goalkeeper Rodrigo Artiga. It was a goal that summed up the dominance of Guyana, as well as calm the nerves of the team, players, Coach Dover and staff and the many who were viewing the live stream including Guyana Football Federation, President, Wayne Forde.
One minute later the half time whistle was sounded by Haitian Referee, Ben Benbito Celima.
The second half was no different to the first with the Guyanese continuing where they left off; taking the fight to their opponents. El Salvador tried their utmost to get into the final third against the Guyanese but were met with stout resistance on every occasion, goalkeeper Jamian Cumberbatch pulling off some excellent saves during the encounter.
On 63 minutes, and as a result of another aggressive raid, Job Caesar’s ripping right foot shot from in the box was deflected for another corner which resulted in Guyana’s second goal. The ball was whipped into the area and found the head of Captain Jeremy Garrett who obliged by guiding it into the nets just under the bar close to the far post and away from Artiga.
It was the virtual sealer since El Salvador could not find their way back and this was even though Guyana lost two players as a result of consecutive yellow cards. First it was Bevan Baker in the 82nd minute followed by Raushan Ritch whose second yellow was for handling the ball just outside the area in the 87th minute.
But even though they were fielding less players, the aggressive intent of Guyana was not affected. Artiga was pushed to bring off double saves in the 84th minute from Benjamin and again in the 89th again from Benjamin and Chris Macey.
Four minutes of added on time did not change the outcome of the game and the final whistle brought deserved celebrations from the players, staff and fans. Guyana ended with three points by downing the #1 seeded team in Group F and the winner of the group, El Salvador, 2-0.
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