Belizean football fans could not help but voice their disappointment after the Belize Jaguars missed a golden opportunity to score a home victory and settled for a scoreless draw when the Football Federation of Belize hosted the Cayman Islands for the first game of the World Cup 2018 Russia qualifiers at the FFB Stadium in Belmopan on Wednesday night, March 25.
The Jaguars attacked the visitors’ goal in deadly earnest. The Jaguars brought their full artillery of Jarret Davis, Harrison Roches and Daniel Jimenez at forwards supported by Elroy “Bib” Kuylen, Delone Torres and Andres Makin Jr, as well as Denmark Casey Jr, Nahjib Guerra and Carlton “Fubu” Thomas; but their 90-minute bombardment failed to produce a single goal!
The Jaguars now find themselves in a must-win situation as they traveled Thursday, March 26 to the Caymans, for the rematch in Grand Cayman on Sunday, March 29. That match will go into extra time and penalties if necessary; as there must be a winner who will then advance to the next round for a similar home-and-away away against Dominica in the Windward Islands. The winners of that second round series will then advance to the third round, where they will face powerhouses like El Salvador, Guatemala, Jamaica’s Reggae Boys and Trinidad’s Soca Warriors.
Belize’s best effort came 11 minutes into the second half, when Harrison Roches killed the ball on his chest and blasted the ball into the net with a mid-air flying kick, but the linesman had his flag up and referee concurred, annulling the goal as offside. Jarret Davis had scored two goals in a practice friendly against Club Deportivo Rivera of Peten a fortnight ago, and looked for an early goal in the very first minute of play. The visitors’ goalkeeper, Ramon Sealy came off his line to meet Davis’ charge, and Daniel Jimenez had an open look at an empty goal as he streaked in on the left but he failed to catch up to the ball which screamed past the far upright.
The Jaguars got another opportunity three minutes later when Caymans’ defender, Jason Ebanks brought down Harrison “Kafu” Roches inside the goal area and referee David Moller Reyna ruled penalty, but goalkeeper, Ramon Sealy blocked Jaguars’ captain, Elroy Smith’s attempt to convert and then threw his body on the ball to forestall Smith’s second try on the rebound.
The Jaguars got no penalty call when Caymans’ captain Abi-Jah Rivers put up both hands to block the ball when Daniel Jimenez tried another shot at goal. Delone Torres brought the ball up the right flank and centered into the goal are, but Roches’ attempt to finish sent the ball over the crossbar. Caymans’ defenders, Wesley Robinson and Jessus Ebanks bracketed Roches when he penetrated into the goal area, but again Roches got no penalty call when he was pushed down from behind, inside the box.
Referee Moller may have thought Roches dived, but he did not issue a yellow card reprimand, instead awarding the Jaguars a free kick. Elroy Smith’s execution of the set piece sailed the ball over the crossbar. Jarret Davis’ header to put the finish on pass from Elroy “Bib” Kuylen drained wide of the right upright, and Wesley Robinson got the worst of the encounter when he tried to block Jarret’s bicicleta kick, which again was outside the uprights. Danny Jimenez next mounted a magnificent solo effort up the left flank, and his shot beat Sealy but drained past six inches outside the far post.
Sealy coolly collected Jarret’s next header, and Roches’ next shot on an assist from Jimenez again went wide of the left upright. Torres and Andres Makin Jr were creating plays, but all attempts to finish went wide or were stopped by Sealy. Caymans’ was not without their casualties; as Sealy had to help Jessus Ebanks off the field after a hard contact with Davis. The game remained scoreless at intermission.
Kuylen’s attempt to set table for Jarret went wide as failed to make contact, and Rivers and Jason Ebanks could not stop Jarret’s next shot which mercifully went wide. Coach, Jorge Nunez introduced Denmark Casey Jr and Nahjib Guerra to replace Trevor “Burger” Lennan and Elroy Kuylen, while Caymans’ Matthew Suberan relieved Raheem Robinson and Martin Webb replaced Mark Ebanks at forward.
Elroy Smith tried to surprise Sealy with a long-range shot, which sailed over the crossbar. Down at the other end, goalkeeper, Woodrow West was forced to dive to deflect a shot at goal, but the visitors were unable to capitalize on the resultant corner kick.
Jarret and Denmark Casey tried long range shots, but both went wide. Delone Torres passed to Jimenez, whose shot went wide, his next pass to Roches was forestalled by Sealy, who beat Roches to the ball. Carlton “Fubu” Thomas entered the ball game for Torres, and Caymans’ Martin Webb replaced Mark Ebanks at forward, and Jairo Sanchez-Scott replaced Jessus Ebanks at midfield.
Suberan tried a long range “hail Mary” shot that was way too high over the crossbar.
The Jaguars went into a final frenzy in the three minutes of stoppage time, with Thomas crossing to Jimenez who found Jarret for the finish which again drained wide as the long whistle sounded the end of the match.