The opening match of the Digicel Caribbean Cup between St. Martin and Cayman Islands at the Juan Ramon Loubriel Stadium, Puerto Rico on Oct. 2 ended in a 1-1 draw.
The game was delayed due to large quantities of surface water on the pitch from heavy rainfall earlier in the day.
However, this did not dampen the spirits of the two teams; they came out of the blocks firing as you would expect. There were several physical exchanges and heavy challenges right from the start as both teams signaled their intent to start the Digicel Cup in a positive fashion.
St. Martin definitely looked the brighter making a very good attempt to overcome the tricky pitch with some neat passing moves. Nicolas Chalmet in midfield showed some nice touches in the early exchanges and nearly put centre forward Derville Virgile through after only eight minutes, this attack lead to two corners in quick succession with a half chance falling to Cedric Adam with the first shot of the match.
Cayman were adopting a more direct approach choosing to get the ball forward as quickly as possible; this caused the St. Martin defense a few anxious moments. A long throw from the right bounced awkwardly and hit the unfortunate St. Martin defender on the hand, the referee pointed to the spot without hesitation. Paul Brown stepped up for Cayman and slotted the ball home into the bottom left hand corner – one nil. Perhaps a little against the run of play Cayman had the lead.
The goal provided Cayman with the boost they needed, and they were on the attack straight away when Mark Ebanks played an excellent deep cross for Theron Wood but his header went straight to the keeper. He could not get enough power behind the header.
St. Martin’s, centre forward, Virgile continued to create havoc for the Cayman defense and on 32 minutes he was put through only for the keeper to come from his box and handle outside the area. Referee Courtney Campbell had no choice but to show a yellow card, it could easily have been red. A disappointing effort from the resulting free kick, it was hit low and hard, straight at the wall.
At the end of the half Brown from Cayman slide in on Joel Richardson with a bad challenge at the right back position, Richardson retaliated and got shown a straight red card. It was not looking good for St. Martin as they headed to half time a goal down and now a man down too.
The second half was less than a minute old when Virgile from St. Martin was through on goal only for the keeper to take him down this time, the referee showed the second yellow to Goalkeeper Jermaine Brown, so he was off. Ten against 10 now, St. Martin were back in the match. However they wasted the resulting free kick as Mickael Mazzoli sent it high over the bar.
Soon after, St. Martin’s danger man, Virgile dispossessed the Cayman centre back on the right side of the penalty area and produced a fantastic strike that rattled the back of the net. A very good individual goal that was a fitting reward for the player’s effort and a great goal for the opener in the Digicel Cup. The St. Martin players were clearly delighted by their striker’s effort.
St. Martin now had the impetuous they needed and could have added a second within five minutes when the ball fell to Jonathan Vigneau on the left side of the box, lucky for Cayman; they managed to block the effort that seemed destined for the top corner.
The game was actually a better spectacle when it was 10 against 10. Cayman started coming more into the match and in the latter part of the second half applied all the pressure. They had several half chances but could not convert. St. Martin seemed to get tired as Cayman pressed forward. In the final 10 minutes there were several goal mouth incidents. However, with only two minutes remaining St. Martin should have scored on the break when a great chance fell to the substitute Maxime Chevreul but his curled effort went just wide.
Back came Cayman and in injury time a headed effort from Theron Wood hit the cross bar after great work down the right, it deserved better and would have been an excellent match winner.
While a draw might have just about have been a fair result, Cayman will probably be a little disappointed by the sequence of events that let St. Martin back into the match. An exciting start to the Digicel Caribbean Cup!