Caribbean: St. Kitts edge tough group; St. Vincent also through
St. Vincent & Grenadines and St. Kitts & Nevis scraped through a tough CFU Caribbean Cup qualifying group at the weekend. With both nations joined on five points along with Barbados after three matches there were a series of tie-break situations which came into play in order to split the teams. Stoppage Time – International Football Blog reviews the action.
All of the games in Group B were played in Kingstown on the island of St. Vincent and the three aforementioned nations were joined by lightweights Montserrat. On Matchday 1 Barbados and St. Kitts & Nevis got things under way with a 1-1 draw with Rashida Williams giving Barbados the lead after 14 minutes only for George Isaac to equalize for St. Kitts just after the hour mark and that was the way it stayed. The host nation then played its first match against Montserrat and destroyed their opponents by seven goals to nil with Shandel Samuel bagging a hat-trick and becoming the top scorer in the group with those three goals. It was clear to see that Montserrat were going to be the whipping boys of the group, hardly surprising as they are ranked joint last in 203rd place in the FIFA World Rankings, and they were made to suffer on Matchday 2 conceding five goals without scoring in defeat to Barbados. This meant that St. Vincent and St. Kitts would fight it out to try and wrestle outright first place in the table but neither side was able to after a 1-1 draw. Jevon Francis put St. Kitts ahead with five minutes of the first half remaining only to see Keith James restore parity on 73 minutes for the hosts. This meant that Barbados and St. Vincent led the table with four points after two games with St. Kitts on two points and Montserrat propping up the rest on nought.
St. Kitts had the luxury of facing Monserrat on Matchday 3 and they duly put four goals past their hapless opponents in order to take the group leadership with five points before the final game of Group B saw St. Vincent face up to the challenge of Barbados. If either team won this fixture then they would be guaranteed top spot in the group but a draw would make things difficult and fate was to bring about the dificult option after a goalless draw. It’s not as if both teams wanted to draw this game as they had two players sent off in a temperamental match such was the magnitude of the encounter. However they went off the pitch knowing that the scientists and mathematicians would have to get the calculators out in order to work out who had progressed.
In the end St. Kitts, St. Vincent and Barbados were all level on total points, level on points in games played against each other and, with all those matches being drawn, level on goal difference in games played against each other. What it boiled down to ultimately was the fact that St. Kitts scored more goals (two) in their head-to-head matches whereas the others scored one each so it was they who topped the group. To determine second in the group it went down to the totality of goals scored in the group stage and that honour went to St. Vincent having scored eight compared to Barbados’ six.
St. Kitts & Nevis’ reward for qualifying is to enter the next stage of qualifying in Group E alongside Puerto Rico – who topped Group A of qualifying – Guadeloupe and Grenada whilst St. Vincent & The Grenadines must wait and see who they will face as it is not yet clear who else qualifies as a best runner-up as there are two more First Stage qualifying groups still to play in the CFU Caribbean Cup.