After a 5-0 September drubbing in their first international friendly, the Cayman Islands played Cuba to a scoreless draw Wednesday (29 May) in the first of two home exhibitions at the Ed Bush Stadium in West Bay.
In the first half, a defensive battle saw Cayman utilize a long-ball approach from the defensive third created minimal chances, while Cuba moved the ball up the pitch with ease only to be stopped by a strong effort from the Cayman Islands defense. Assistant Coach Ben Pugh told Cayman 27 the home side performed admirably.
“We knew it was going to be tough, we knew they would pass the ball well in and out of possession,” said Pugh.
The pace quickened in the second half with Cayman midfielder Jonah Ebanks get a pair of chances just outside the Cuba box but fired wide on both opportunities. After replacing captain Ramon Sealy in net, backup Shakur Welcome saw a slew of action. Cuba threatened to break the game open but midfielder Anibal Alvarez struck a cross right into the hands of Welcome who gathered easily. Minutes later, midfielder Andres Ruis was stripped in the defensive zone, leading to a mad scramble in the Cayman box ending with Cuban midfielder Rolando Abreu ringing it off the crossbar.
Pugh said this team, a younger version of the national squad for this particular game, should adapt in the second international Friday (31 May).
“We want to see more of the same we wanted more possession high of the pitch specifically in our defensive third more to create a few more chances,” said Pugh. “That will come with time. It’s a new and young group.”
Cayman got it’s best chance late in the second when midfielder Christopher Reeves pounced on an errand Cuba pass down the wing. With the Cuban goalkeeper off his line in a backpedal, Reeves struck the ball on pace, but wide of the net.
“Towards the end, we could have scored two goals,” said Pugh. “I think they kept ball well, and I’m very pleased with how we did.”
Captain Ramon Sealy was happy with the team’s effort.
“I think we performed well,” said Sealy. “It’s definitely a performance we can build on moving forward. I felt we kept possession of the ball well and we were able to create a few chances of our own. Throughout the game – with a little more luck – we could be won it. A draw is probably a fair reflection of the game.”
Midfielder Anton Nelson, who earned just his second international cap, echoed Sealy’s sentiments and is optimistic about the team’s maturing offensive game which was missing key players due to FA Cup scheduling Saturday (1 June).
“We were all happy on how we played defensively and we were very organised,” said Nelson. “I think everyone in attendance noticed how hard we worked. This is a Cuba team which will be going to the Gold Cup next month, so it’s encouraging. Attacking wise, we could have done better, but the fact that we were able to make so many substitutions and still keep it at 0-0 shows the depth we are beginning to have in our national set up.”
Pugh added the team was encouraged by the international debut of 16-year old Future Sports Club standout Barry-Dre Tibbetts.
“There are a lot of positives in terms of effort and work rate,” said Pugh. “Barry-Dre was on the pitch, who is 16-years-old, and he fully deserves it. There is loads to built on and a lot of progression since September. We just need to keep building, and we keep going forward.”