(ABOVE) Barbados forward Hadan Holligan (#11) escapes his marker during a World Cup qualifier against visiting Aruba on June 14, 2015, in Bridgetown.
BRIDGETOWN, Barbados – A clinical second-half strike from the Hadan Holligan fired Barbados to a 1-0 victory over Aruba in the return leg of their CONCACAF, second-round qualifying series for the 2018 FIFA World Cup on Sunday night at the Usain Bolt Sports Complex.
The Barbadians won the opener 2-0 on Wednesday in Oranjestad, giving them a 3-0 aggregate triumph.
Barbados technical director Marcos Falopa was understandably delighted with the outcome.
“We have a group of youth players, mostly under-23, and the result for me is important because after 2000 it is one of the best results we have had [in World Cup qualifying],” Falopa said. “I am very thankful for the players because they’ve worked very hard. Holligan is a very good player. He has helped us a lot.
“We had a very difficult game in terms of tactics because Aruba has some good players and they play a good style with the ball on the ground but our team also improved in tactical respects with good counter-attacking.”
Aruba head coach Giovanni Franken said his side played according to plan, but failed to cope with the swift Barbados counterattack.
“Like in Aruba, we played a good controlled game, we were the dominant force on the pitch, we played with the ball and we created chances and possibilities but like in the home game, the counterattacking from Barbados was very strong,” he conceded. “They hit us very hard in the first game inside 50 minutes and after that we controlled the game and today from the start we controlled the game but the counter-attacking from Barbados was very dangerous.
“It is unfortunate the game had to be decided by our own mistake and overall we made too many personal mistakes and gave the game away.”
The first half was a story of few chances, with Barbados coming closest to getting on the scoresheet. On ten minutes, Holligan slipped down the right, beat one defender and crossed for striker Mario Harte, whose right-footed volley forced a save out of goalkeeper Eric Abdul.
Harte again came close eight minutes before half-time, when he pounced on a loose ball inside the box and crashed his shot against the crossbar with Abdul beaten.
The Arubans came out sharper in the second half as they hunted the crucial breakthrough goal.
Raymond Baten had perhaps the visitor’s best chance in 63rd minute, but his volley from outside the 18-yard box off a rebound shaved the crossbar.
The game became a scrappy affair until Barbados capitalized on uneven Aruban defending in the 79th minute with Holligan beating one defender and burying his shot past Abdul.
Three minutes later, Rashad Jules nearly doubled the advantage only to find the crossbar with a volley of his own.