The Sugar Boyz were sweeter than Barbados.
But the Bajan Tridents showed their resolve in the opening Group B Digicel Caribbean Cup football championships last night, battling to a hard-fought 1-1 draw with St Kitts-Nevis at Victoria Park.
Jeffrey Williams’ first-half goal was cancelled out in the second half by St Kitts-Nevis’ playmaker George Yellow Man Isaac, who showcased his sublime skills and speed on the ball and was clearly the best player on the pitch.
Isaac teamed up with another St Kitts-Nevis stalwart Keith Kyama Gumbs, to stage a fabulous fightback after St Kitts-Nevis had conceded the opening goal.
The Bajan Tridents went ahead in the 14th minute through Williams, who was at the receiving end of a superb build-up with six quick passes, culminating with a defence-splitting pass by veteran John Nobby Parris.
The move began with captain Norman Forde – who started in a striking position alongside an out-of-form Riviere Williams – playing the ball to Rudy Grosvenor, who found Rommel Burgess in the centre where he pushed it across to Bryan Neblett.
Neblett then gave the ball to Williams, who quickly dished off to Parris, who drew the St Kitts-Nevis defence to him, and set an unmarked Jeffrey Williams free through the middle of the defence with only goalkeeper Akil Byron to beat, and he did so confidently, with a powerful shot.
Jeffrey Williams should have had a second goal but his namesake, Riviere, played the ball too close to the goalkeeper, who made a good save, even preventing the advancing Parris from getting on the end of the rebound.
St Kitts-Nevis came back strongly, searching for the equaliser, taking a number of long-range shots which sailed over the bars. They enjoyed greater possession, with the fleet-footed midfield magician Isaac orchestrating their plays, easily winning the battle against Romell Burgess and Parris, the two holding midfielders employed by Barbados.
The Kittitians came extremely close on a couple of occasions, once forcing Barbados’ central defender Jonathan Straker to make a goalline save after a swift turn by Gumbs on the left side.
Gumbs was culpable two minutes from half-time when a shot landed on his feet, about four yards from Rouse, but his effort at near post was weak and the Bajan custodian thwarted him.
From as early as the seventh minute, Rouse also had to parry a fierce shot from Tiran Hanley – who had turned away from Neblett on the left side of the Barbados defence – for a corner.
Early in the second half, a glancing header by Riviere Williams from a cross by Neblett, was saved by Byron.
But shortly after Barbados coach Thomas Jordan – who should’ve brought Forde back to his customary midfield position to tangle with Isaac – replaced Riviere Williams with Mario Harte, St Kitts got the equaliser in the 61st minute.
Gumbs found Isaac, and his low shot from the top of the 18-yard box took a deflection. Goalkeeper Rouse made a desperate dive to his left, making a partial save, but he was unable to prevent the goal.
Harte was then denied by Byron, who pushed his shot away for a corner, while at the other end, Jerad Williams squandered an opportunity when he hesitated inside the penalty area and had his shot deflected for a corner.
In injury time, Barbados, who introduced Terry Adamson for Neblett with ten minutes left, made their final substitution with Jason Carter replacing Forde, happy for the second stalemate between the teams in nine matches with St Kitts still ahead on wins, four to three.
Barbados: Alvin Rouse (GK), Barry Skeete, Jonathan Straker, Omar Archer, Bryan Neblett (Terry Adamson), John Parris, Rommel Burgess, Sheridan “Rudy” Grosvenor, Rashida Jeffrey Williams, Riviere Williams (Mario Harte), Norman Forde (Jason Carter).
St Kitts-Nevis: Akil Byron (GK), Kareem Mitchum, Jevon Francis (Orlando Mitchum), Ian Lake (Alexis Saddler), Tiran Hanley, Keithroy Richards (Joel Jeffrey), Earl Jones, George Isaac, Thrizen Leader, Gerad Williams, Keith Gumbs.
Barbados: Jeffrey Williams (14th); St Kitts/Nevis: George Isaac (61st)
Referee: Jermain Elskamp; assistants: Venton Mars, Cedric Weeks; fourth official: Caswell Cambridge; match commissioner: Norris Ferguson; referees’ inspector: Ronald Geoffroy.