Scoreless draw played here in The Bahamas
Guardian Sports Editor
Published: May 24, 2013
For Tottenham, it is the end of their season and according to their head coach, they have already struck vacation mode. For a short-handed Jamaican Reggae Boyz team, it was a thrilling match against one of the best clubs in England, and to a greater extent, all of Europe. At the end of the day, the squads made history, playing to a scoreless draw in the first soccer match to ever be held in the new Thomas A. Robinson National Stadium here in The Bahamas.
Both teams had scoring opportunities, especially in the second half, but the ball just couldn’t find the back of the net in what still turned out to be a truly exciting match. The one time it did, Tottenham’s Steven Caulker was called for offside much to the dismay of their screaming fans and the thousands in attendance who eagerly anticipated at least one goal on Thursday night. Like Tottenham, Jamaica had a number of opportunities in the second half, but just couldn’t convert.
“We certainly didn’t under-estimate them.... we’re already preparing for our offseason so it was kind of like vacation mode for us,” said Tottenham Head Coach Andre Villas Boas. “Overall, it was a good match. I’m sure they wanted to rest some of their top players for the qualifiers that they have coming up, but it was interesting either way and we wish them all the best for their qualification. Some of our guys still have their national team commitments, but for the most part it’s end of season and time to relax.”
Jamaican defender O’Brian Woodbine felt that they let a couple opportunities slip by them offensively, but he was thrilled with the effort they showed defensively.
“Well, we knew that Tottenham was a very good team and it turned out to be a pretty good game. I think that we had the best chances to score, but that’s just the way the ball rolls sometimes. Overall, we’re still pleased with out effort,” said Woodbine.
Both teams were actually satisfied with their effort last night, but the real winners would be the Bahamas Football Association (BFA) in conjunction with The Bahamas’ Ministry of Tourism as approximately 4,000 fans showed up for the event. BFA President Anton Sealy said the historic match is just the start of things to come, as the BFA will now move forward with the hosting of top level matches in 2014 and beyond.
“Something like this certainly bodes well for the future,” said Sealy last night. “Those who came out saw two quality teams put on a good exhibition of football on a quality pitch. The atmosphere was lovely, and to have that kind of energy in the stadium made it a truly exciting football game. Both sides really enjoyed the exhibition of football, and I think the fans in attendance really had a good time. We have already had some requests from other English Premier League teams so the signs are positive going forward. What we hope to do next year, is have two Premier League sides pitted against each other. We’re very pleased and we look forward to the future.”
The Tottenham Hotspur Football Club, commonly referred to as Spurs, finished fifth in the Barclays Premier League Standings this year. The club attacked quite a bit in the second half last night but came up empty. So did the Jamaicans. The match itself actually took on a South African World Cup feeling with intense action on the field and vuvuzelas in the stands.
Speaking of the World Cup, the Jamaicans still have a long way to go to qualify for 2014, despite being in the final round of the qualifying process for the CONCACAF (Confederation of North, Central American and Caribbean Association Football) region. Jamaica finds itself in sixth place in the six-team pool, and has to finish in the top three to assure themselves of a berth in the 2014 World Cup in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Jamaica is the only Caribbean country remaining in the qualifying process. They will host Mexico on June 4, and the United States on June 7, desperately seeking a win.
“I’m very confident (that we could qualify),” said Woodbine last night. “We just have to work hard and play to the best of our ability. Once we do that, I think that we stand a good chance of winning against Mexico and even the United States.”
As for the match last night, it was just an international friendly, so it didn’t mean anything, but don’t tell that to the Jamaicans who showed up in droves hoping that their national side could cart off a win, and go into their match in a couple of weeks against Mexico on a positive note.
“It was a very fast pitch, and we had our chances, but we just couldn’t capitalize on them, and that’s just football,” said Jamaican forward Jeremie Lynch last night. “Overall, we had a good experience and we look forward to coming back.”
Both sides consist of a number of professional players. Some of the high profile names were no-shows such as Portland Timbers’ forward Ryan Johnson for Jamaica, and American Clint Dempsey for Tottenham, but at the end of the day, hardly anyone could complain. Professional Footballers Association’s Player of the Year Gareth Bale gave the English fans quite a bit to cheer about as he proved to be quite elusive on the pitch in the second half. Bale, who only played the final 30 minutes of the match, displayed an arsenal of moves, gliding the ball through an opponent’s legs in one instance setting up a scoring opportunity for himself which he just pushed wide, and perfectly setting up Caulker on another. Tottenham actually had great chances to score on both plays but Bale failed to convert on his drive, and Caulker was called for an offside penalty on the other.
“It was a slow tempo today, but we had a good side today and they played well against us,” said Caulker. “They had a lot of pace, especially up front. It would have been nice for us to score and get the win, but it’s the end of our season so it was okay. They provided a real good test for us today. We’re a big squad. A lot of guys came in and did a good job. It’s been a long season but we had a great experience here. We spent a lot of time on the beach and really enjoyed ourselves,” he added.
Overall, the Jamaican national team had more opportunities to score last night, but goal keeper Brad Friedel had two fantastic saves on one play in the second half for Tottenham, and just got a hand on another, on a shot that seemed destined for the back of the net. All three saves came in the second half as the intensity of the match picked up. As the final whistle blew on the scoreless draw, both teams embraced each other after a truly hard-played match.