El Salvador send Benna Boys packing
Published on 08 June 2021
SAN SALVADOR, El Salvador (June 8, 2021)—El Salvador blanked Antigua and Barbuda Wednesday night to walk away with Group A honors. Playing at the Estadio Causcatian, the home team produced a methodical display to beat the visitors 3-0 and secure qualification into the second round of Concacaf World Cup Qualifiers.
In a match where only a win would do for Antigua and Barbuda, the El Salvadorian outfit dominated the majority of possession throughout the entire match. The Benna Boys committed numbers behind the ball while looking to play on the counter attack. El Salvador, meanwhile, looked to make early inroads.
After some quick, decisive passing, they created a chance as early as the 5th minute, but Nelson Bonilla inexplicably hit the cross bar despite having the goal at his mercy following a defensive blunder by Antigua and Barbuda.
The visitors’ strategy almost bore fruit in 31st, as a quick counter attack down the Salvadorian left found Josh Parker on the end of a cross that required a great save from Mario Martinez to keep the Leeward Islanders off the scoreboard. A few minutes later, Junior Benjamin, popping up in the penalty area, misdirected his header.
For a while, Antigua Barbuda thwarted every effort from the Salvadorians and would have been content going into the interval with a 0-0 score-line. It was not to be. A short corner, which Antigua and Barbuda failed to deal with properly, saw Eriq Zavaleta open the scoring in the 40th, heading past Molvin James in goal, after giving his marker the slip. El Salvador was the happier of the teams going in the halftime break.
The Salvadorian dominance of possession continued in the second half, although there was a bit more urgency for the Benna Boys now chasing the game. Again, it was Parker, after managing to stay onside, who saw his lobbed effort come agonizingly close to drawing the teams level in the 54th. It took last-ditch defending to clear the ball off the line.
As El Salvador continued to press, Antigua and Barbuda looked to make changes to stem the tide. Thomas Bramble was introduced, and he tried to establish a bit of possession play for Antigua and Barbuda to give his team a bit of a respite.
There was always the feeling that there were more goals in the contest and the second one came in 68’ with substitute Tony Ragumas scoring into an unguarded net as the usually dependable James left his line to clear a ball played behind his defense. That proved costly, as Ragumas beat him to the ball and slotted home to give El Salvador a 2-0 advantage.
Antigua and Barbuda continued to make changes with the game seemingly out of reach, handing debuts to Ronaldo Flowers and Keon Greene.
The result was put firmly to bed in the 84’ with the 3rd goal of the match for El Salvador with Walmer Martinez turning smartly inside the penalty area before slamming his right-footed shot past James in goal.
With the win, El Salvador staked their claim to Group A and a second round berth. Antigua and Barbuda finished third behind Montserrat.