Home squad prevails in sudden death penalty shootout
After coming up short in its previous two matches against Guatemala, the third time proved to be the charm, on Monday night, as The Bahamas rallied to turn back the visiting squad in a sudden death penalty shootout to wrap up the first day of action of the 2023 CONCACAF (Confederation of North, Central American and Caribbean Association Football) Beach Soccer Championships.
The regional beach soccer tournament is ongoing and will run through Sunday at the Beach Soccer Stadium at Malcolm Park, at the foot of the Sir Sidney Poitier Bridge.
After a 2-2 deadlock at the end of regulation, The Bahamas and Guatemala played a scoreless extra session and was once again tied at the end of the penalty shootout, with both sides scoring on four of their five opportunities. On its first opportunity in sudden death, Gary Joseph came through for the home squad, pushing a delayed shot to the upper right portion of the goal to put The Bahamas on the brink of victory.
A save from Team Bahamas’ goal keeper Michal Butler would give the host country the opening victory and three points in the qualifying process, and he came through, as he stopped a shot from Berny Marroquín, to seal the win for The Bahamas. Butler said it is a sweet feeling, particularly after he felt he conceded a goal to the Guatemalans earlier in the match. Miguel González stole the ball from Butler in the open field, with no other player around, and powered a shot to the goal to give the Guatemalans a 2-1 lead with 9:09 to go in the final third. Less than three minutes later, Wood Julmis responded for The Bahamas, heading a ball off a shot that ricocheted off his teammate and pushed it past Guatemalan goal keeper Hendrick Córdova.
The match stayed at 2-2 for the remainder of regulation and through the extra session.
“It’s an honor and pleasure to come out here and help the team pull off a win. To be here in my home country and be a part of a victory like this is a good feeling,” said Team Bahamas’ goalie Butler. “Yes I had to get it back. I gave them a free one and had to get it back,” he added about the miscue he had earlier and then saving the day at the end. “I just cleared my mind and relaxed. I just forgot about the fans, the hype and focused on what I needed to do. It’s an amazing feeling, to be here at home and to come out on top is a good feeling.”
Butler was named the Man of The Match for The Bahamas. It doesn’t get any easier for the host nation, as the team will face Belize this evening at 7:30 p.m. and then four-time CONCACAF Beach Soccer Champions Mexico on Wednesday at the same time. The Bahamas is in Group B of the tournament with Guatemala, Belize and Mexico.
“The first game is always difficult. For us, the victory is amazing,” said Team Bahamas’ Head Coach Alexandre Soares of Brazil. “The goal is to get to the next stage, to finish in the top two of the group and get to the quarterfinals. Once we get there, then we’ll try to get to the next step. Maybe tomorrow, we’ll play a better game and pull off another win. That’s the important thing, to pick up a win and earn three points. The team spirit is high.”
Despite having a lot of speed on the team, Soares said they didn’t want to play too fast because that would have worked in favor of the Guatemalans.
“Guatemala is a very good team, and if you play too fast, that will work in their favor. They are a very dangerous team, but we won and it was a good victory for us,” he said.
Team Captain Gavin Christie scored one of the goals for The Bahamas in the penalty shootout.
“It always feels good to win, and to win at home. This was a very tough match. We didn’t play as well as we would have liked, but the important thing is that we got the victory,” said Christie, who had nothing but high praise for Team Bahamas’ goal keeper. Butler had a number of spectacular saves during regulation and added another one in the penalty shootout before sealing the victory with yet another save in the sudden death phase of the shootout.
“The goal keeper is most important and we believe we have a very strong goal keeper,” said Christie. “We knew that if we gave him a chance, he would save one or two for us and eventually he did that. He saved us in the end.”
Lesly St. Fleur, The Bahamas’ most prolific beach soccer goal scorer ever, said picking up a win over Guatemala was good start for the team and hopefully they can keep the momentum going. The team is looking for a win over Belize tonight. St. Fleur scored the first goal for The Bahamas on Monday, tying the match at 1-1 at the 1:21 mark of the second third.
“This feels good. It wasn’t a good start for us, but we fought to the end and came out with the victory,” said St. Fleur. “They (Guatemala) like to run and we had to be well-prepared for it. We played to the best of our ability and we came out victorious.”
St. Fleur was also complimentary of Butler’s effort in goal.
“You have to have faith in your keeper, that is why he is there. We knew that once he made one save, his momentum would have carried him and he would bring us through,” said St. Fleur. “Our level of confidence is very high for this tournament. We are at home and we have to feed off the fans. Without their support, we can’t play our game, so we just have to continue to feed off them and try to qualify for the world cup.”
The Bahamas is among 12 countries vying for one of two qualifying spots for the FIFA (International Association Football Federation) Beach Soccer World Cup, to be held in Dubai, United Arab Emirates (UAE), in November 2023. Just the top two teams from the CONCACAF Beach Soccer Championships will qualify.
As for the match on Monday, after a scoreless opening third, Juan Flores scored the first goal for Guatemala early in the second third, before St. Fleur tied the match at 1-1 with 1:21 to go before the start of the final third. González capitalized off Butler’s miscue to score the second goal for Guatemala, and Wood Julmis responded, tying the match at 2-2 with 6:59 to go in regulation.
The score stayed knotted at two for the remainder of regulation and through the extra session.
Julmis, St. Fleur, Christie and James Thompson scored the four goals for The Bahamas in the penalty shootout. Flores, Pablo Crocker, José González and Miguel González responded for Guatemala.
Finally, in sudden death, Gary Joseph came through for The Bahamas and Berny Marroquín was turned back for Guatemala.
This is the third time in 10 years The Bahamas is hosting the CONCACAF Beach Soccer Championships.
Following group stage play, the first and second place finishers in each group, plus the two best third-place finishers, will advance to the quarterfinals. That will be followed by the semifinals, third-place match and the final.
Admission is free for the entire tournament.