A 69th minute strike from Jeff Beljour carried the Turks and Caicos Islands to a 1-0 win over the US Virgin Islands (USVI) in their penultimate Concacaf Nations League Group encounter at the Turks and Caicos Islands Football Association (TCIFA) Field on Saturday.
It was sweet revenge for the Turks and Caicos Islands in Saturday’s return leg, after being outscored 2-3 by their opponents in the first game in USVI.
The win vaulted the Turks and Caicos Islands to third place on six points, demoting USVI to fourth place on four points from their previously third place.
In the other group game, Sint Maarten trounced leaders Bonaire 6-1 at home, to cut their opponent’s lead to two points.
Hayden Mullings, head coach for the Turks and Caicos Islands, was happy for the win, although he believed the score could have been much more convincing had his team converted more of their chances.
The youthful Turks and Caicos Islands team spent the first half applying tremendous pressure to their guests, creating scoreable chances in the process.
The first chance came in the 2ndh minute when Makenson Cadet, after skipping past three defenders, shot wide of the target. In the 5th minute, Junior Paul saw his shot cleared off the goal-line by a defender, after shooting past the advancing goalkeeper, Ramius Stiehler.
In the 28th minute, captain Billy Forbes shot wide of the target from close range. The TCI got another scoring opportunity in the 38th minute, but Raymond Burey’s close range she was saved by Stiehler.
Paul could have considered himself unlucky when his ferocious 39th minute shot was brilliantly blocked by Stiehler.
USV got their first real chance in the 41st minute when William Shaffer’s shot was brilliantly saved by Sebastian Turbyfield.
It appeared that early in the second half the TCI had loosed the screws on their guests, allowing them some level of wiggle room to string passes, which resulted in them creating some openings in the TCI defensive area.
However, as the game wore on, the TCI came back into their own and began to string passes together one of which resulted in Forbes breaking way inside the box, but his shot was parried by Stielher for a corner.
The TCI finally broke the deadlock when Forbes raced down the right flank and made a cross into the box, which eluded a defender, gifting a charging Beljour a sitter on the back post, which he made no mistake.
Beljour’s goal sets off wild celebrations in the stands among the partisan crowd.
The TCI could have widened the lead in the 74th minute when Forbes saw his well-placed header save by Stiehler.
Probably the TCI’s best chance to widen the lead came in the 82nd minute when Paul outpaced all his challengers in a counterattack, but with an advancing Stiehler caught in no man’s land, his placement shot went perilously wide of the target.
The USVI, in their attempt to draw level, became a bit physical, and when their number 14, substitute Kassell Greene punched the TCI’s Wilkins Sylvins – a substitiute - the latter retaliated, and both were given marching orders by referee Christopher Mason of Jamaica.
The TCI will travel to Bonaire to face their Dutch-speaking counterpart on Tuesday in the final group game, while the USVI will play host to Sint Maarten.