Powerhouse Grenada returned to the Digicel New York Caribbean Cup on Sunday after a one-year suspension, drawing with St. Kitts and Nevis 1-1 in the opening round of the 2011 campaign at the Jefferson High School stadium in Brooklyn.
The Cup’s Vincentian-born president, Fred Ballantyne, said he was happy that the Grenadians returned to the 20-year-old championship after they were suspended for failing to show up for a third-place, play-off match against St. Lucia in 2009.
The Grenadians felt they were denied a vital goal in the 2009 semifinal encounter with perennial champions, Jamaica, who went on to win the match, 1-0, and then the championship.
On Sunday, the “Spice Boyz” showed glimpses of their old self when they found the back of the net in the seventh minute, through a Jason Francois conversion, following a mix-up in the penalty box.
But while they maintained the momentum in the first half, they failed to capitalize on numerous scoring opportunities, allowing St. Kitts to find the equalizer just one minute into the second half, when Jolston Whattley took advantage of a Grenada defense foul-up.
Both sides then tried desperately to find the winning goal, for the rest to the match, to no avail.
“This is not good for us,” said a very disappointed Grenada head coach, Brian Lewis, in a post-match Caribbean Life interview. “We had many opportunities to win, and we didn’t make use of them.”
His St. Kitts and Nevis’ counterpart, Alfred Rawlins, on the hand, said he was happy with the draw.
“I was very pleased under the circumstances,” he said, stating that some of his key players were back in their native land. “They held it well. They had about three chances that they threw away.”
In the earlier matches in the triple-header, Trinidad and Tobago romped over a much-depleted, seven-man Colombian squad, swamping them 5-0. Kyle Cupid, Irasto Knights, Sharard Sullivan, Christian Taylor and Eldon Yhip converted for the Trinidadians.
Perennial cellar-placed Dominica held Guyana to a goalless draw in the second match.
This Sunday’s round of matches features Dominica challenging Antigua and Barbuda, and Barbados dueling with Haiti.
Twelve teams are participating in the tournament, including six-consecutive-year and defending champions, Jamaica.
“This year’s tournament is our 20th year, and the fans will be seeing Caribbean soccer at the highest level,” said Nordie Pabarue, the Cup’s Jamaican-born treasurer.
“All the teams are trying to catch up to Team Jamaica by reaching out to their overseas players and tapping into the college ranks players,” he added.