St. Kitts and Nevis shuts out The Bahamas, 4-0

After being inactive for almost two years, The Bahamas’ senior men’s national football team returned to action on Saturday but could not find the back of the net as the St. Kitts and Nevis Sugar Boys dominated, winning 4-0 at the Thomas A. Robinson National Stadium.

The game was a FIFA (International Federation of Association Football) 2022 World Cup qualifying match for the CONCACAF (Confederation of North, Central America and Caribbean Association Football) region. It was the first game for The Bahamas in the group stage of the 2022 qualification process. With the loss, The Bahamas is now at the bottom of the table in Group F with zero points. The previous time The Bahamas took the field was in November of 2019, in a 1-1 draw against Bonaire.

The win, which St. Kitts and Nevis’ head coach Leonardo Neiva called a very important one, puts them at the top of the group with six points in two away games. Trinidad and Tobago is in second place with four points as a result of a win and a loss. Puerto Rico is third with one point with a draw and a loss. Guyana played one game and is still looking for a point after a 3-0 loss to Trinidad and Tobago.

The Bahamas is currently in the Dominican Republic, set to play Guyana at 3 p.m. tomorrow at the Olímpico Félix Sánchez.

In the first 15 minutes of the game on Saturday, both teams played it safe as they tried to feel each other out. Bahamian midfielder Marcel Joseph took a shot in the fourth minute but the shot was no threat for the Kittitian’s goalkeeper, Julani Archibald, as it went far right.

In the 25th minute, Keithron Freeman got St. Kitts on the scoreboard with a well-placed shot that had no power behind it but rolled into the left side of the net. The defensive line kept Freeman slightly onside but The Bahamas’ goalkeeper Michael Butler hesitated as if it was an offside penalty.

“Individual mistakes cost us goals and in these types of games, playing against professional players, you must be 100 percent focused,” head coach of The Bahamas Nesley Jean said.

The Bahamas was trying to find the equalizer for the rest of the first half. The visitors were persistent and almost found the back of the net again but Butler made a great save to keep the game at 1-0.

It was still 1-0 as the game went into intermission.

The Bahamas had a quiet half from crafty forward Lesly St. Fleur. Neiva is familiar with St. Fleur, after coaching him at Montego Bay United F.C.

“I coached him (St. Fleur) in Jamaica in 2015-2016. I know he is a special player. We had to protect ourselves from him because he is very skilled,” Neiva said.

In the first six minutes of the second half, The Bahamas made its first substitute as they looked to try and attack more. A bad decision in the 51st minute by Butler in the 18-yard box resulted in a penalty for the visitors. Butler went after the ball but touched a Sugar Boys player as the ball went out of bounds.

Rowan Liburd sent the penalty kick to the left side toward a diving Butler who got his hands on the ball. Liburd’s power was too much for Butler as the ball went into the back of the net and St. Kitts and Nevis went up 2-0.

Team Bahamas looked for some momentum from the back but it was tough to beat St. Kitts and Nevis’ midfield. Jean said his team tried to attack more but made some bad passes.

“We decided to sit back and see what they were willing to do before we open up spaces for them to attack. That’s why we had to sit back but it’s our job for when we do sit back, to get forward when we have the ball as well. I feel we did at times but we chose the wrong pass by forcing certain attacks,” Jean said.

Freeman scored his second goal of the night in the 65th minute and substitute Sterling-James put the final nail in the coffin in the 82nd minute to put the visitors up 4-0.

Making his debut at the national level for The Bahamas was high school player Elijah Mitchell who said it is always a privilege to represent his country.

St. Fleur, who is the captain of the Bahamian team, said that the team is healthy and will look forward to a better performance tomorrow against Guyana.