Bermuda 2 Barbados 3
From seemingly cruising to a straightforward victory to being booed off the pitch, Bermuda somehow contrived to lose to a hard-working but one-dimensional Barbados on Saturday night.
It all seemed to be going so well for Bermuda — perhaps a little too well — as they took a two-goal lead in the first half thanks to close-range finishes from Willie Clemons and Jaylon Bather.
Inexplicably, however, Barbados were allowed to huff and puff their way back into the game before blowing Bermuda meekly aside with two goals in the last three minutes to stun the National Stadium into disbelief.
While the displeasure vented by some supporters was slightly harsh, given that it was only a friendly, the manner in which Bermuda orchestrated their own downfall was frustrating, confusing and, at times, downright infuriating.
After all, Bermuda had completely dominated the first half and should have had the match sewn up at the break.
Barbados, on the other hand, had failed to conjure up a single scoring opportunity and could count themselves fortunate not to have trailed by a wider margin, with the effervescent Reggie Lambe curling a shot against the post and Clemons also having an effort desperately scrambled off the line.
This was certainly not a team that looked 21 positions superior to Bermuda in the Fifa rankings — well, at least not on the evidence of the first half.
Maybe they had simply caught a “jet-lagged” Barbados cold, because after the break the game took on a very different complexion as Bermuda slowly surrendered their ascendancy in a surprisingly limp and lethargic fashion.
Perhaps sensing his team-mates had committed the cardinal sin of taking their foot off the gas, Lambe took it upon himself to single-handedly try and spark them back into life.
The Bermuda captain had been his side’s classiest operator in the first half, linking up well with strike partner Zeiko Lewis, but started dropping deep to try and be involved in every facet of his team’s play.
If anything Lambe was guilty of trying too hard, his frustrations threatening to boil over after shoving Elijah Downey, a Barbados substitute, to the ground after a heated exchange between the pair. It was an act of petulance that, had it occurred in a World Cup qualifier, could have seen Lambe sent off rather than receiving only a booking.
Although Barbados had very few tricks up their sleeve other than hurling the ball towards the forehead of rangy striker Zeco Edmee, there was an air of inevitability when they pulled a goal back on the hour mark.
Having forced Bermuda deep inside their half and cut off their supply lines, substitute defender Tyrell Burgess made an error of judgment by playing Tre Ming into trouble just outside the penalty area. Ming barely had time to control the pass before he was bundled over by Edmee in what looked like a foul before the Barbados striker dispatched a left-footed shot past debutant goalkeeper Quinaceo Hunt.
Kyle Lightbourne, in the Bermuda dugout, must have wondered how his side had allowed their stranglehold on the game to slip away.
It hardly helped that the interim coach was forced into making several substitutions that further disrupted his team’s rhythm and shape as Barbados chased an equaliser.
Bermuda still appeared to be labouring to victory until the 88th minute when substitute Dishon Howell capitalised on a mistake by fellow teenager Hunt, who made a hash of a needless back-pass by Bather.
Howell then completed the unlikely comeback in stoppage time with a calm finish, slotting through Hunt’s legs to trigger some of the wildest celebrations to have been witnessed in a friendly match. Even Jason Boxill, the Barbados goalkeeper, joined in the jubilant scenes near the corner flag as Bermuda’s forlorn players made the long and solemn walk to the dressing room.
Clemons 8, Bather 19
Edmee 59, Howell 88, 90+1
Bermuda: (4-1-3-2) Q Hunt — C Castle (sub: T Burgess, 60min, D Usher, 77), R Lee, J Bather, D Leverock — T Ming — D Brangman, W Clemons (sub: I Coke, 60), M Warren (sub: M Burchall, 83) — Z Lewis (sub: O Bascome, 85), R Lambe. Substitutes not used: D Cooper, L Simmons, K Bean. Booking: Lambe.
Barbados: (4-5-1): J Boxill — S Codrington, R Bailey, M Williams (sub: A Hill, 61), M Harte (sub: D Howell, 86) — H Holligan, R Sergeant, J Harris, R Morris, R Jules — Z Edmee (sub: E Downey, 77). Substitutes not used: R Smith, K Primus. Bookings: Coddrington, Downey.
Referee: A Villarreal.