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Saint Lucia opened its FIFA World Cup Russia 2018 Qualifying campaign on Wednesday night in Round 2. The opponent, Antigua-Barbuda, and the venue the Sir Vivian Richards Stadium in North Sound.
Saint Lucia’s technical team, led by Francis ‘Baba’ Lastic, rang the changes from the team that finished fourth and last in the Windward Islands Men’s Championship a few weeks ago. It was also a very different team from the one that lost 2-1 to Antigua-Barbuda in Gold Cup Qualifying last year.
Centre-forward David Henry was given the start, spearheading an attack that included Zacchaeus Polius, Malik Sty Prix and Eden Charles. At the back, goalkeeper Randy Poleon retained his place, with Sabbatus Hunte, Emmery Edward, John Perry Joseph and Kurt Frederick the back four. Tremain Shayne Paul and Lester Joseph occupied the central midfield positions to start the match.
Saint Lucia started brightly, Charles meeting a well struck corner from Frederick at the far post inside the first 20 minutes, but guiding his shot just wide. Two minutes later, though, the home team took the lead.
Jorrin John picked out Tamarley ‘Ziggy’ Thomas on the edge of the area, Ziggy holding the the ball up and feeding 20-year-old Tevaughn Harriette, who finished from 18 yards to put Antigua-Barbuda up 1-0.
A further five minutes on, it was all even once again. 23-year-old Tremain Paul picked up the ball 25 yards out and fired a daisy cutter past the Antiguan keeper, the same sort of goal he scored four years ago against Canada.
The home team had two decent opportunities to retake the advantage before halftime, Ziggy Thomas firing over and Peter Byers with a decent headed effort denied by Randy Poleon at the near post.
In the second half, Saint Lucia’s dander was up. David Henry got behind the Antigua defence early on, then in the 61st minute the 21-year-old from Canaries pounced on a poor clearance from 25 yards out and fired past the keeper to give his team the lead.
With Saint Lucia well on top, Antigua-Barbuda began ringing the changes, throwing everything but the kitchen sink at their opponents. But it was Saint Lucia that would make the telling changes.
With just over five minutes remaining in regulation, the go-ahead goal scorer was taken off, and replaced by Troy Greenidge. Polius was also substituted, with utility player Jamil Joseph coming on in his stead.
In time added on, Saint Lucia compounded the misery for the home crowd, 22-year-old Greenidge heading in a Malik St Prix cross for a 3-1 lead. Lastic and company had seen enough, and withdrew Charles for defensive replacement Melanius Mullarkey.
Saint Lucia will play Antigua-Barbuda again on Sunday. Since Saint Lucia does not have an available home venue, Sunday’s game has been designated a ‘home’ game for the visitors, which means they hold a substantial advantage.
Based on the scoreline of the opening game, Saint Lucia is projected to have an 83.62% chance of going through to the next round of play. Antigua-Barbuda, down two goals from their home leg, are sitting on a 16.38% probability of moving on from this round of play.