Bermuda’s Concacaf Women’s Under-17 Championship campaign ended with a third straight defeat as they were beaten 6-1 by Costa Rica in Bradenton, Florida yesterday.
The winless Lady Gombey Warriors finished at the bottom of their qualifying group after their final group B match at the IMG Academy Stadium.
Jadae Steede-Hill, a 69th-minute substitute for Emily Cabral, notched Bermuda’s consolation with a spectacular 30-yard free-kick in stoppage time.
Midfielder Cabral endured a tough day at the office as she conceded two free-kicks that led to Costa Rica’s first and third goals.
Things seemed promising for Bermuda in the early going when LeiLanni Nesbeth, the midfielder, dragged just wide after dispossessing Costa Rica defender Keylin Gómez inside her own box.
However, the Costa Ricans broke the deadlock in the thirteenth minute after Cabral was penalised for a late challenge on Priscilla Chinchilla deep in her own half. María Paula Salas chipped the free-kick into the box, where Carmen Marin side-footed Gipzy Prieto’s pullback past Gaiya Melakot, the Bermuda goalkeeper.
Bermuda were again the orchestrators of their own demise when midfielder Chinchilla headed in Pamela Gutiérrez’s high diagonal cross after Koa Goodchild, the defender, gave away possession in her own half.
Malekot, one of two changes Bermuda coach Aaron Denkins made to his starting line-up from the team who lost 10-1 to the United States on Wednesday, made back-to-back saves before the play was halted in the 31st minute to allow the players to hydrate as a precaution in the warm conditions.
Costa Rica continued to press and dominate possession when play resumed and pulled further away in the 39th minute when forward Salas curled in a 25-yard free-kick after being brought down from behind by Cabral.
Bermuda were penalised again for sloppy play in the 56th minute when Chinchilla scored her second after Prieto intercepted Trinae Edwards’s wayward pass. Chinchilla latched on to Salas’s defence-splitting pass and calmly side-footed past Malekot to make it 4-0.
Chinchilla returned the favour in stoppage time when she crossed in the box for Salas to powerfully head home from eight yards out.
Bermuda’s only moment of joy finally arrived moments later when Steede-Hill scored from free-kick from well outside of the area after Prieto was penalised for a foul on Nesbeth.
Overcome with emotion, Steede-Hill sprinted towards the sideline to celebrate her brilliantly taken goal with the coach Denkins and his assistant Dashun Cooper.
However, the joy was short-lived as Edwards brought Chinchilla down in the box and Daniela Contreras converted the ensuing penalty kick to complete the rout.
Commenting after the final whistle, Bermuda coach Denkins said: “The game today was a bit different because Costa Rica gave us a different equation to solve.
“The US and Canada were very technical and tactile. Costa Rica were physically tough, committed tacklers and tenacious.
“We talked about it in our pregame but lessons are taught and valuable experience is gained on the field.
“The second half was a bit better and we showed more grit.”
As for his team’s overall performance at the tournament, Denkins added: “I am disappointed and encouraged at the same time.
“Of course disappointed with the scorelines but encouraged by the progress and bravery that these girls showed on the field.
“Overall, this tournament and playing at a different level of football are valuable tools for the progress of women’s football in Bermuda.
“It was humbling for the other national team coaches and scouting college coaches to be giving us praise for improving.
“They recognised the progress that our programme has made and encouraged us to continue in the direction that we are heading in.”
The Lady Gombey Warriors are due to return home today.
The US topped the group after beating Canada 1-0 yesterday, while Mexico finished first in group A on goal difference thanks to a 1-1 draw with Haiti.
The Americans play Haiti and Mexico face Canada in the semi-finals tomorrow, with the final taking place on Tuesday.