Caption: Former St. Kitts and Nevis Senior Men’s Team Captain Atiba Harris with Puerto Rico’s goalkeeper Codi Laurendi after Sunday’s match.
A late strike from Harry Panayiotou was enough to give the their three points in their first ever Concacaf Nations League match versus Puerto Rico on Sunday September 9. The match played at the Warner Park Football Stadium in Basseterre, St. Kitts was well attended and was entertaining for the most part, despite a 0-0 stalemate at the end of the first half. Both teams snuffed out each other’s attack for most of the first half, despite cutting runs from the St. Kitts Nevis’ pacey forwards and occasional attacks from the visiting side.
Puerto Rico’s goalkeeper Cody Laurendi was up to the task with his excellent goal keeping skills which kept out at least three excellent shots from St. Kitts and Nevis and keeping Puerto Rico in the game. The last 25 minutes f the match was all St. Kitts Nevis as the urgency of getting a goal and eventually winning the match became increasingly clear for the home side.
That goal eventually came on the stroke of regulation time as Harry Panayiotou picked up a wide pass from the right side into the 18 yard box and finally slotting it pass the Puerto Rico custodian, sending the home fans in a frenzy.
Coach Jacques Passy of St. Kitts and Nevis was overjoyed after the match, describing the win as spectacular. He emphasized that defeating this Puerto Rico team is a major achievement considering the pedigree of the players. “I couldn’t be happier because Puerto Rico had an amazing team …they have a top team and St. Kitts and Nevis need to know they have a top team and they just beat a top team,” Coach Passy said. Asked what he said to the players at half time that helped changed the course of the game, Coach Passy said they switched the formation and this helped the team to be more aggressive and to eventually get the goal.
On the other hand, assistant coach of Puerto Rico Juan Bertani said while the defeat was disappointing, they don’t consider this a major loss as they have young players that can solider on in the tournament. “We are going to come back working very hard with a lot of young players and they are all playing in different leagues…we didn’t see this as a big loss, because we didn’t think we should have loss this game,” the assistant coach said.
With this victory, St. Kitts and Nevis has claimed three points in their first and historic Concacaf Nations League Qualifying phase match. They will play French St. Martin next month in Anguilla following by a home match against Canada in November and an away match versus Suriname in March 2019. Sunday’s match was witnessed by Concacaf General Secretary Philippe Moggio, who arrived earlier that day especially for this match.