Nick Blackman scored a brace in his debut with the Bajan Tridents.
It was just like magic!
Head coach of the Barbados Football Association’s (BFA) National Senior team worked his charm and capped off a 4-0 finish against (French) Saint Martin tonight.
Russell “The Little Magician” Latapy kept the crowd at the BFA’s Wildey Turf mesmerized and glued to their seats, in a thrilling opening encounter in the team’s first outing of the Concacaf Nations League group phase games and his first at home game.
Playing in League C of Group A, the senior Bajan Tridents got the ball rolling and are on a solid trajectory for promotion into League B and a chance to book a spot in the 2021 Concacaf Gold Cup.
As early as the fourth minute, a new look Bajan Tridents, led by Captain Rashad Jules, got their names on the scorecard when Omani Leacock drove home the ball, off a right side free kick by Hadan Holligan, past Saint Martin goalkeeper Ulrick Luperon.
Ten minutes later Jules, showing his fancy footwork using his right foot expertly crossed to English League 2 Club Carlisle United’s Hallam Hope, but the latter was off target and the ball went high and wide.
Not a full minute later, Tel Aviv Maccabi striker Nick Blackman scored his debut goal on Bajan soil. Leacock played a through ball to the ever-vigilant Blackman, who wasted no time pressing the ball into the left corner, past Saint Martin’s custodian.
As word spread of Latapy’s magic, the stands filled almost to capacity, reminiscent of the golden days in the late 1980s, when fans and supporters would descend on any playing field to watch the Tridents at play.
Eighteen-year-old Nicolai Brathwaite, easily the most valuable player of the night gave a solid performance throughout the 90 minutes. His body language and constant communication with his teammates showed he soaked up Latapy’s advice and was instrumental in demolishing Saint Martin’s backline and any hope they had at scoring, ending the first half on a high.
The North American side returned re-energized as the second half got underway. But the newfound energy did little to increase their chances at goal. Blackman once again stepped up to the plate and coolly sent the ball into the back of the net, past an unsuspecting Luperon, after center back Akeem Hill, who was ahead of the pack, passed the ball to the striker who wasted no time in making it three for the home team.
There was no chance of Saint Martin redeeming themselves when Blackman was substituted for the “Gale force winds”. The stadium erupted in a frenzy, thanking Blackman for his superb showing, but also waiting for what they knew only too well would follow whenever teenaged sensation, Thierry Gale entered a football field.
Not even five minutes later, Gale was fouled just outside the penalty area. That was the only invitation the 18-year-old needed. A hush fell over the Turf as a much fitter and stronger looking Gale stepped up to the ball, curling it around the wall of players, straight into the back of the net as the crowd exploded in immense celebrations.
Jules, passing the captaincy to Holligan, was substituted for forward Armando “Sugar” Lashley, while T’Shane Lorde took Hope’s position. The latter, while having at least four shots on target failed to convert even with three minutes of extra time being added to the clock.
That notwithstanding, at the end of play the Bajan Tridents had found favor once again in the hearts of the fans, and they raced to the sidelines to greet their supporters, as whispers of Latapy’s “magic” reverberated through the stadium.