The Cayman Islands Under 15 Boys’ National Football finished undefeated in the 2017 CONCACAF Under 15 Boys’ Championships with a 2-0 shutout of Antigua & Barbuda on Friday, August 18 at the IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida.
Brimming with confidence after dispatching Aruba, Bonaire and Saint Martin, the local boys were certainly aware that Antigua & Barbuda would present a much tougher challenge.
Antigua & Barbuda had advanced to meet the Cayman Islands as they had seen-off the three countries in their opening group.
In their final group game against Saint Martin, the Cayman Islands had seized the upper hand very early and this contest would be no different.
In the 5th minute, Jahmai Griffiths received a perfectly flighted ‘over-the-top’ pass from Barry-Dre Tibbetts. Young Griffiths settled the ball onto his favourite right foot, drove at the defence and unleashed a low, hard drive that left the Antiguan goal keeper with no chance.
With the early lead, the local boys maintained the upper hand with some slick passing and possession. Antigua had no other option than to chase the ball.
The Cayman Islands’ domination of the first half showed in the stats – 13 shots at goal with nine on target. This domination finally paid off in the 30th minute as Jahmai Griffiths grabbed his and his team’s second goal of the day.
Working the ball down the left flank, Gunnar Studenhofft drove to the endline and sent an enticing ball into the Antiguan penalty area ultimately alluding all the defenders but finding his right winger Griffiths. Griffiths met Studenhofft’s ‘gift’ perfectly and sent it soaring into the upper corner of the net to extend the Cayman lead.
Antigua was in total disarray and were rescued from further damage by the half time whistle.
Cayman started the second half slowly as Antigua pressed for a goal. Cayman’s goal keeper Theo Whiteside was called into action for the first time in the 37th minute when he rushed out to thwart an Antiguan attack. His quick thinking and reflexes saved a certain goal.
Antigua’s persistence finally paid off in the 40th minute when Cayman’s central defender Tommy Kehoe was judged to have pushed an Antiguan forward following a melee in the area from a corner kick and a penalty was awarded for the local boys’ opponents.
Up stepped Antigua’s penalty taker but his low drive struck the base of the right post and bounced to safety.
With players tiring, substitutes Jackson Kirkconnell replaced Jonah Sigsworth, Jahrion Bodden came on for Ciaron Haylock, Kameron Bennett entered the field for Corey Smith and David Pitcairn replaced Daniel Wallace.
Cayman had a few more chances to increase their lead in the second half while Antigua slowly grew into the game. Lapses in concentration presented Antigua with a number of half-chances but their poor finishing was their downfall.
The local boys were allowing Antigua too much possession in midfield but central defenders Luke Byles and Tommy Kehoe showed their class with a few timely and essential challenges.
With a few minutes left and victory within their grasp, midfield stalwart Barry-Dre Tibbetts capped off an excellent tournament with an inspiring last few minutes as he orchestrated a ‘session in possession’.
As the final whistle sounded, the Cayman Islands players fell to the ground with elation. They had done what they had set out to do – undefeated with four wins out of four.