Players from the USVI (pictured) celebrate after scoring against host Barbados in a CONCACAF World Cup qualifier on March 22, 2015, in Bridgetown
BRIDGETOWN, Barbados – Barbados failed to convert on two penalty kicks and fell 1-0 to the visiting U.S. Virgin Islands in first round, first leg CONCACACF qualifier for the 2018 FIFA World Cup.
At the National Stadium, Jamie Brown struck the decisive blow in the 16th minute in a match that saw the host be reduced to ten men after Jomo Harris was sent off early in the second half for a second caution.
USVI goalkeeper Erik Mozzo was brilliant, especially in the second half, helping to maintain his side’s advantage heading into the return leg in St. Thomas on Thursday.
Head coach Ahmed Mohammed said afterwards that victory was deserved because of hard work and tactical discipline.
“I want to thank my players because we had a very long six weeks [of training],” he commented. “We worked very hard to find a team of unity and organisation. Today’s match was very, very hard. It was a big fight. We are ready for the next week in St Thomas. It will not be easy. Barbados are better than us. We were the underdogs, but football has to play in 90 minutes.”
Barbados’ technical director Marcos Falopa lamented his side’s mistakes, noting they had failed to capitalise on their opportunities.
“It was a very difficult match,” the Brazilian pointed out. “We believed this team would have done better but we did not succeed. It is the first time in my life I see a team [miss] two penalties in a game like this, so we lost opportunities.
“Their goalkeeper was good and they played well. Our team started well in the game, but our full backs from the beginning had some problems…so from that came their goal. Now we will travel there and will try hard [to win], but this game will not be easy. We will try our best. We know what we have to do.”
Barbados had a golden opportunity after just two minutes, when Hadan Holligan twisted and turned on the edge of the box, before being brought down inside the area. Team captain Mario Harte lashed the resulting penalty against the right post.
In the 13th minute, Kemar Headley headed a pass into Harte’s path only for him to shoot into the chest of the advancing Mozzo from point-blank range.
Against the run of play, USVI took the lead three minutes later with a swift counter-attacking move. A searching, aerial ball was played out of the back and Brown out-paced the Barbados full backs with a blistering run, lobbing goalkeeper Dario Weir after controlling the ball beautifully with his first touch.
Down 1-0 at half-time, Barbados suffered a further setback nine minutes after the interval as Harris received his second card for a mistimed challenge.
Undeterred, Barbados poured numbers forward and gained its second penalty on 66 minutes. Once again, Holligan again weaved his way into the box only to be brought down.
Mozzo proved to be the hero, though, diving to his left to parry away Romario Harewood’s effort.
In the dying moments, it was the 24-year-old Mozzo who preserved USVI’s lead by denying Holligan from close range and parrying Sebastien Hunte’s powerful header onto the crossbar.