Miami Florid: With so much invested in preparation for this tournament, expectations were high as the whistle blew to start play.
The game started at a high tempo, with speed and aggression from both sides. Once the big match nerves had settled, so did Antigua and Barbuda, who asserted their dominance, creating chance after chance. The game remained 0-0 owing to some profligacy in front of goal and some great work by the Grenada number one.
As the minutes ticked on and it seemed possible that Antigua and Barbuda would become frustrated, they remained patient, maintaining their calm style of play, retaining possession and mounting pressure on the Grenada goal.This pressure eventually forced an error from the Grenada left back who instinctively raised his arm to block a cross. The referee blew to highlight the infringement and pointed to the spot.
Dillon Hadeed briskly collected the ball and placed it on the spot. There was no doubt who was taking this penalty and no doubt he would score, as he dispatched the ball firmly into the bottom left and past the floundering keeper. One nil to Antigua and Barbuda.(22 min of play).
The game was restarted and this is where we would measure the character of Antigua and Barbuda who resisted the anticipated attacks from Grenada. Some strong work in the Antiguan midfield thwarted any attempts that looked promising from Grenada. It was from one of these breakdowns in play that forced the ball left to the ubiquitous Shakwon Simon. He gathered the ball, and with a burst of pace took his defender with him, he then cut inside, leaving the defender in a crumpled heap. Not satisfied with his fancy footwork, Shakwon then sought out Antyon with a perfect pass. Antyon did Shakwon’s skilful work justice and finished with aplomb. This was the goal of the day, and a sign to the Grenadian team that this was going to be a long game for them. (25 min of play)
Shortly before halftime, S Telemaque made it 3-0 and the scoreline was beginning to reflect the pattern of the game.(29 min of play)
The whistle blew for half time, 3-0 and the Antiguan boys walked off with confidence, assured that the game was within their grasp. Contrastingly, the Grenadian boys took languid strides towards their dugout in the knowledge that their coaches were lining up some strong talk for them.
Refreshments and team talks over, the game restarted with Antigua setting the pace once again, good possession football, working for the Grenadian team inside and out, up and down as they controlled the tempo and style of play. At times, simply breathtaking to watch, as they toyed with the opposition, drawing petulant fouls from them.
The composure and patience exhibited by the Antiguan boys served only to wear down Grenada. Shackwon Simon found himself free in the opposition penalty area where he jinked and feigned his way through a series of challenges by the goalkeeper and defender to slot home the fourth goal.(47 min of play)
A deserved goal from Mr Simon, who had worked tirelessly for the team. Proof that hard work generates opportunities.
The fourth goal was a killer for Grenada, who were down on their haunches, devoid of any inspiration when the whistle blew to restart play.
This was not a time for sympathy from the Antiguan team who continued to assert their dominance. It wasn’t too long before Connor Hadeed moved onto a fine cross field pass and curled an audacious lob into the top corner. Celebrations ensued, albeit short lived, the goal was ruled out for offside.
In between the plethora of goal attempts by Antigua, Grenada seized an opportunity to deny Jayden Martin a clean sheet.
Jayden was not reading the script when he was finally called into action and pulled off a fantastic save from a looping header to the top corner. Great agility and athleticism on the show, as he turned the ball round the post for a corner.
With the Grenada team looking weary and disjointed, they resorted to fouling, pulling, pushing and kicking when they couldn’t win the ball.
The Grenada number 16 who had been in Niall Harney-Rogerson’s pocket all game, decided to exhibit contempt for his opponent. Trying to play through Niall with force, offering some rabbit punches in an off the ball tussle. Niall was having none of it and stood up to the attempts of intimidation, forcing the referee to halt play and have a word with the two players.
Almost immediately after this incident, Niall is booked, taking one for the team, with a clip of the heels on the Grenada attacker who appeared to be winning a foot race to a goal against Hulk. The free kick was taken and harmlessly dealt with by Jayden Martin.
Connor Hadeed, keen to make an impact, forced a great save from the keeper when through one on one. Then another effort from the same player is almost rewarded when his shot is sliced just wide of the goal.
The game is all but over as a contest when Joel McIntosh makes an immediate impact after coming on as a late substitute and is cynically fouled just outside the area as he lined up to shoot.
Fatz (D’andre Bishop) lined up the resulting free kick and struck a sumptuous left foot finish to the top right corner of the goal. Five nil, an emphatic score line matched by similar celebrations. ( 66 min of play)
Any attempts of spoiling Jayden’s clean sheet were dutifully dealt with by a robust back four.
Lorenzo, who had just come on, resumed the flawless performance by cleaning up at the back with some tricky footwork, ghosting past two players and distributing the ball to the midfield.
Lorenzo almost got on the scoresheet when he out jumped his defender to reach a whipped cross from the right, narrowly missing the far post.
The game ends as it started, with Antigua rampaging up the field. In a game where there were so many good performances and so much to be proud of Shakwon Simon demonstrated that the smallest boy on the pitch can have the biggest heart. Take a bow son, you were amazing today.
A fantastic performance by all in yellow shirts. Carnival may be over in St Johns, but it has just come to Florida!
Courtesy of Kevin Mcintosh