Photos by Orlando Charles
A 78th-minute strike from Neil Danns, rescued a vital point for Guyana, as their opening CONCACAF Nations League clash with Barbados ended 2-2 yesterday at the National Track and Field Centre, Leonora.
Barbados seemed destined to end their two decade drought against the local side, as they overcame a 1-0 deficit following a scoreless first half that witnessed Guyana spurn several chances, to earn a 2-1 lead. [Their previous victory occurred in 1999 via a 2-0 margin in Bridgetown in the Caribbean Cup.]
However, Danns, the Bury FC midfielder had other plans, capitalizing on a poor clearance from the Barbadian rearguard to send the large crowd into a frenzy.
Latching onto a resulting Vurlon Mills pass 22 yards outside the penalty box, the 34-year-old midfielder uncorked a powerful flat strike which settled into the lower right corner.
The eventual scoreline was not a reflection of the clash, as the large crowd departed the venue with mixed emotions in what was head-coach Michael Johnson’s managerial debut. Poor finishing was the major deficiency of the night, as Guyana spurned several chances in a dominant opening half.
Ranked 182nd on the FIFA ladder, Guyana’s starting XI which featured seven overseas-born players, consisted of Kai McKenzie Lyle (GK), debutante Ronayme Marsh-Brown, Jake Newton, Brandon Beresford, Samuel Cox [Captain], Sheldon Holder, Danns, Andrew Murray Jr, Daniel Wilson, Trayon Bobb and Jelani Smith.
Despite suffering an injury to centre-half Newton in the 22nd minute, the Guyanese should have taken the lead in the 31st minute, as Murray Jr. was dispossessed by the goalkeeper.
Racing onto a lobbed pass over the back-line, the dapper forward inexplicably failed to control the ball following a one on one situation, allowing the advancing custodian to smother the danger.
Holder was the next culprit in the 36th minute, storming onto a pass inside the right of the box, only to fire his effort over the crossbar while under the impending challenge of the onrushing goalkeeper.
Wilson added to the growing list of Guyana’s abysmal finishing in the 42nd minute. This was probably the worst of the lot, as Wilson following a flicked on pass from a left-sided cross, fired his effort wide of the right side unchallenged inside the centre of the area.
The second half started perfectly for the host, as Bobb bagged the deserved opener in the 46th minute.
The Uitvlugt native, raced onto a through pass inside the left of the box, before lobbing his shot over the advancing goalkeeper and into the right corner, as the crowd rose to their feet in celebrations.
Wilson was then denied six minutes onward, unleashing a powerful strike from outside the box, which was parried by the diving goal-keeper to his right. The plucky Barbadians would be handed a life-line in the 65th minute, as a poor back pass fell into the path of Alan Hope, who curled a right foot shot into the left corner, with the goalkeeper badly out of position.
It went from bad to worse for the host, as Hope made his presence felt once in the 73rd minute with a brilliant diving header into the roof of the net, after latching onto a wonderful left side cross.
The goal emanated from a simple one-two pass combination that was not dealt with properly by Cox, in the process setting up the dramatic equaliser from Danns.
Guyana will now turn their attention to the trio of the Turks and Caicos Islands, French Guiana and Belize. They will host Belize on March 2019, after travelling to the Turks and Caicos Islands and French Guiana during October and November 2018 respectively.