Not often do you see an unbiased crowd stand to cheer the losing team, but the crowd in attendance at the Ato Bolton Stadium in Couva Trinidad, gave the Lady Jags a standing ovation despite them going down 1 – 0 to Puerto Rico tonight.
It was the semi-final of the Caribbean Football Union (CFU) Women’s Olympic Qualifier and apart from a spot in the final, the winner gets an automatic berth to the CONCACAF playoffs against the USA, Mexico and Canada to see who will represent the confederation at the Olympic Games next year in Brazil.
Guyana played what Coach Rodrigues said was their best football all year but the best performance in football does t guarantee you a win; goals does and the Lady Jags couldn’t find one on the night.
Guyana started with Chante Sandford in, Alison Heydorn, Briana DeSouza, Kayla DeSouza, Justine Rodrigues, Ashley Rodrigues, Aslee Savona, Brittany Persuad, Olivia Gonsalves, Mariam El Masri and Julia Gonsalves.
For Puerto Rico, Karly Gustafson (GK), Jacqueline Marie Cruz, Delyaliz, Selimar Pagan Rivera, Karina Socarras, Laura Suarez Ayala, Annie Lee Mendez, Ashley Marie Rivera Suarez, Adriana Font, Nicole Rodriguez and Brittany Cruz.
Ashley Savona created several early chances, playing down the left wing, but Puerto Rico’s defence held their own while Guyana’s Chante Sandiford; the former UCLA stand-out keeper was called upon to make a few stops but none to threaten her goal.
Justine Rodrigues’ free kick from approximately 20 yards out, also looked certain to find the net, but Puerto Rico’s Karly Gustafson pulled off a beautiful save to keep the score goalless.
In the second half, Alison Heydorn’s goal was disallowed after the referee called her for a hand ball.The Lady Jags’ Head Coach celebration on the sidelines quickly turned into him having a look of dejection.
Mariam El Masri certainly took the game to the Puerto Rico defence. Her ball that seemed destined for the goal, was cleared off the goal line by the defence, then her header a few minutes after went just wide while she also set up Ashlee Savona for a run on goal that almost scored.
El Masri almost scored from a rebound as the Lady Jags hunt for a goal that would’ve seen them through to the CONCACAF round.
Second half substitute Otesha Charles should’ve converted her nicely timed run to collect a pass from Savona into a goal.
Charles, who was ruled out of the game after sustaining an injury before the qualifiers, recovered in time to come on a sub and that saw a change in Guyana’s attack.
Charles would then bring the crowd to their feet after she collected a pass from El Masri and placed it on her gifted left foot, but Gustafson pulled off an excellent save to deny the Lady Jags the go-ahead goal.
In extra time, Charles was gifted a clear path to goal by the defender but her shot was too hard and went just inches over the cross bar.
However, sensing a penalty shoot-out, Puerto Rico’s Karina Socarras rose above the Guyanese defence to head home her country’s winning goal with only a minute left in extra time.
The crowd wasn’t pleased and voiced their depreciation for Puerto Rico’s goal.
Guyana searched, but couldn’t find an answer with the time that remained and as soon as the Cuban referee’s whistle went off, the tears begun to flow from the Lady Jags.
There’s still hope for the Guyanese women, since they would now have to face the loser from the Jamaica/Trinidad game on Friday at the same venue and come out successful to keep their hopes of playing in Brazil alive.