By William Ysaguirre
Free Lance Reporter
Belize’s most prolific international striker Deon McCaulay, added 2 goals to his personal tally as he led the Belize Jaguars to a 2-1 victory over the Dominican Republic.
The game was the first in the series of World Cup 2018 qualifiers at the Felix Sanchez Olympic Stadium in Santo Domingo on Thursday, June 11.
Belize’s Head Coach, Jorge Nuñez chose Belize’s most experienced international goalkeeper, Shane Moody Orio to start in goal, with a strong defensive line, anchored by another international veteran Elroy Smith, along with Dalton Eiley, Ian Gaynair and Trevor “Burger” Lennan. They held off the Dominican attacks and forwarded the ball to Harrison “Kafu” Roches, Andres Makin and Denmark Casey Jr. at midfield to create plays for the strikers: McCaulay, Elroy “Bib” Kuylen on the left wing and Danny Jimenez on the right flank.
A scant 12 minutes of play had passed when the Dominican defenders blundered in taking down Jimenez inside the 18-yard box and the Guyanese referee had no choice but to award the Jaguars a penalty.
Deon McCaulay stepped up to convert, but the Dominican goalkeeper, Miguel Baez read the play and dove to his right, deflecting McCaulay’s shot. But he was down on the ground with no time to recover as McCaulay darted in to recover the rebound and blast it into the right side of the goal: 1-0 at intermission.
Nuñez knew he should not be content with one goal, and the Jaguars should try for more as insurance; so he refreshed his offensive lineup with Belize’s top young midfielder, Jordy Polanco, who is just out of high school, to replace Harrison Roches.
Polanco’s youthful eagerness and energy, and Jimenez’s speed created plays but no one else from the Jaguars followed up their initiative and both Jimenez’ and Polanco’s passes to center were giveaways to the host defenders.
Elroy Kuylen made a serious effort to get a second goal that forced Vallaz to come up with a save. Deon McCaulay also made a solo effort but his shot was a gift to the goalkeeper in the 67th minute. The Jaguars now really needed a second goal to win the game, rather than settle for a draw, and Coach Nuñez sought to regain the initiative by introducing Evan Mariano to relieve Jimenez.
No sooner had Mariano taken the field than the Dominican Republic’s No.10,Geremy Lombardi delighted home fans when he headed the ball just under the crossbar into the back of the net, to put the finish on a free kick and tie the ball game at 1-1 with 20 minutes of regulation remaining.
Only three minutes of play remained when Mariano, attacking up the right flank, centered the ball to McCaulay, who with the poise of a matador facing a charging bull, controlled the ball, picked his spot in the net with care, and blasted the ball home: 2-1.
The timekeepers added on 3 minutes of injury time but the Dominican 11 could not recover, as Khalil Velasquez replaced Makin to secure the 2-1 win. The stage is now set for Game 2 of the series at the FIFA Goal Project Stadium in Belmopan. at 4 p.m. Sunday, June 14, where tickets for a seat will be $50.