LeiLanni Nesbeth’s wonder strike was not enough to prevent Bermuda from bowing out of the Concacaf Women’s Under-17 Championship in Bradenton, Florida yesterday.
The Lady Gombey Warriors were simply out of their depth against the United States, as the defending champions cruised to a 10-1 victory at the IMG Academy Stadium.
English-based striker Nesbeth, who cut a lonely figure in a Bermuda attack that was kept heavily under wraps, provided her team’s only moment to joy when she grabbed a stunning equaliser from a 30-yard free-kick in the seventeenth minute.
Mia Fishel, the US captain and cousin of Bermuda midfielder Druw Bascome, opened the scoring in the sixth-minute with a neat finish after defender Michela Agresti’s long pass from inside of her own half caught Bermuda flat-footed.
The home side were in full control but conceded a free-kick when Maya Doms fouled Bermuda’s Emily Cabral. Nesbeth stepped up to take the set-piece, which took a slight deflection off of the wall before settling into the bottom left corner of the net.
It was Bermuda’s first goal of the tournament and only the third that the Americans have conceded in the tournament in a decade.
The home side had a confident appeal for a penalty waved off by Haitian referee Ronide Henrius after the ball struck an arm of defender Koa Goodchild in the area.
But Bermuda’s luck ran out less than a minute later when Diana Ordoñez put the home side back in front for good. Bermuda goalkeeper Zakhari Turner’s goal kick was headed back into the path of Ordoñez, who burst into the box and slotted home.
Bermuda threatened again in the 28th minute when Julia Dohle, the US goalkeeper, rushed off of her line to punch the ball to safety under pressure.
It proved to be the last time that Bermuda caused their opponents any anxiety as Doms scored the first of her two goals despite appearing to be standing in an offside position to make it 3-1 and end the game as a contest.
The US would add two more goals before half-time, with Reilyn Turner beating Turner from a tight angle after another long ball caught Bermuda napping and then Samantha Kroeger tapped in from close range after a poor clearance.
With the game all but lost it was now a matter of damage control for Bermuda.
However, they were unable to stop the bleeding as their opponents picked right up where they had left off at the start of the second half with two goals inside of a minute from Makenna Morris and Doms to make it 7-1.
Turner, by far Bermuda’s busiest player, made a string of impressive saves to keep the menacing US attackers at bay for a spell.
But the floodgates would open again with Bermuda’s defence breached three mores times after central defender and captain Danni Watson left the pitch with a suspected strained leg muscle.
Astrid Wheeler made it 8-1 after scoring from a corner kick before substitute Sunshine Fontes scored twice to complete the rout, which qualified the Americans for the knockout stage of the tournament and ended Bermuda’s Under-17 Women’s World Cup hopes.
“Despite the scoreline they walked off the field knowing that they played their best for their country,” Aaron Denkins, the Bermuda coach, said. “The game was a fantastic opportunity for the girls to play against the best team in our region and they gave it their all out there.
“To put it in perspective, we played the strongest team in under-17 women’s football, whose starting line-up had all 17-year-olds, with five under-15 players and for periods in the match were toe-to-toe with them. This is positive for the players and for the direction of women’s football in the island.
“They are a team that doesn’t concede many goals and we got one from a wonderful strike from LeiLanni while Zakhari had a number of key saves in the game.
“Although we were eliminated from this year’s tournament, the next time around for a number of these girls will be better as they will have the experience of this tournament.
“Hopefully the island stays behind them and keeps supporting them as they have been great ambassadors for Bermuda.”