A series of goals in the final third, including four by Team Captain Lesly St. Fleur, led to the unraveling of the Dominican Republic (DR) yesterday afternoon, and Team Bahamas secured a spot in the knockout stage of the 2021 CONCACAF (Confederation of North, Central American and Caribbean Association Football) Beach Soccer Championships, winning emphatically at the Complejo Deportivo Fedefutbol in Alajuela, Costa Rica. The Bahamas won 10-2, scoring seven goals in the final 12 minutes of the contest, to secure a spot in the quarters. In total, St. Fleur netted five goals and moved into third place on the all-time list for goals scored in the regional tournament with 39. The Bahamas can finish no lower than third in its group with El Salvador, Guatemala and the Dominican Republic, and will advance to the quarterfinals for the fourth consecutive time. They have one final round-robin match remaining, taking on El Salvador today. The single-elimination quarterfinals will be held on Friday.
“We had a tough loss in the first game so we had to bounce back today,” said St. Fleur afterwards. “It was a good performance. We went back to the drawing board and came out here and got the job done. We had one option – to come out and win today.
We were able to pull away from them in the final period. We felt like we had to take advantage of the chances we had and put it away. We started off slow but once we got control of the game we were able to punish the opponent and put the game away. For the next game, we have to come focussed and play the same way we played in the final period today. I have confidence that we will be able to pull through and get the job done. We have been training hard to get ready for this tournament. I believe we’ll get the job done.”
As mentioned, they got off to a slow start yesterday, falling behind 1-0 on an own goal and getting just one goal in the first third. Timothy Munnings scored on a penalty kick in the eighth minute of the game, after the Dominican Republic had taken a 1-0 lead on an own goal by Daron Beneby in the fifth minute of the game. Munnings was attempting a bicycle kick in the penalty box when he was fouled and went on to convert the penalty kick to nod the match at one. St. Fleur got his first of five goals on the afternoon early in the second third, drilling a shot from midfield past three defenders and into the back of the net before Dominican Republic goalie Miguel Rojas could react. That shot came in the 16th minute of the game and gave The Bahamas a 2-1 lead.
Rojas went down with an injury at the 2:45 mark of the second third, and it was open season after that for Team Bahamas. Just two minutes before the end of the second third, DR backup goalkeeper Miguel Rivera made a key mistake, stepping out of the allowable area to make a pass. It resulted in a free kick, and Team Bahamas took complete advantage as Kyle Williams pushed the ball to the back of the net to give the Bahamians a 3-1 lead. It didn’t take long for the DR to respond as Miguel Moreta scored for them, connecting in the 24th minute of the match. The second third ended with The Bahamas ahead 3-2, which could have been looked at as a blessing for The Bahamas as a couple shots from the DR bounced off the crossbar and post on kickoffs after goals.
The final third was all Team Bahamas. They scored seven times to put the match away. Gary Joseph scored on a penalty kick just 15 seconds into the final third as he was fouled inside the penalty box. It then turned into the St. Fleur show as he scored three successive goals, two on direct free kicks and the other on a penalty kick, to give The Bahamas a commanding 7-2 lead, still with 6:22 remaining in the match. With 5:32 remaining, Wood Julmis got on the scoreboard, connecting on a bicycle kick to give The Bahamas an 8-2 lead. St. Fleur wasn’t done yet, connecting on his fifth goal of the match and The Bahamas’ 10th, in the 32nd minute of the game. He hit a header on a corner kick with 4:58 remaining to give The Bahamas a 9-2 lead. Torrin Ferguson came on in goal for The Bahamas and they completed the scoring with a shot from Munnings past a distraught DR goalie with just 42 seconds remaining in the match.
The DR, making its inaugural appearance in the biennial tournament, lost two games on Monday and Tuesday by a combined scored of 25-3, and The Bahamas will be moving on to the quarters regardless of the result in its final group stage match today.
The game against El Salvador today is set for 3 p.m. There are 11 teams battling out of three groups for two spots in the 2021 FIFA (International Federation of Association Football) Beach Soccer World Cup at the CONCACAF Championships. The two top teams in each group and the top two third-placed teams advance to Friday’s quarterfinals. The semifinals are set for Saturday and the third place game and championship game, featuring the two qualifiers for the FIFA World Cup, will be held on Sunday. The world cup is set for August 19-29, in Moscow, Russia.