Bethlehem Steel FC Concede Rochester Rhinos Late Equalizer

Rochester Rhinos host Bethlehem Steel at Rhinos Stadium in Rochester, New York on Saturday, May 28, 2016.

Rochester Rhinos host Bethlehem Steel at Rhinos Stadium in Rochester, New York on Saturday, May 28, 2016.


A rather long, hot and humid evening that was highlighted by plenty of whistles from the match referee, a pair of so-called “hydration breaks” on either side of halftime and parade of substitutes that would make any proper meaningless international friendly very proud finally ended with a dramatic equalizer in the fifth minute of stoppage time that preserved the home side’s lengthy unbeaten streak as the host Rochester Rhinos battled visiting Bethlehem Steel FC to an exhausting 2-2 standoff in United Soccer League action on Saturday.

The Rochester Rhinos, who stretched their existing home unbeaten record to twenty-four consecutive matches (twenty wins, four ties) including three playoff victories last season, struck first after taking advantage of a dangerous set piece situation just outside the penalty area in only the 13th minute of the match. Jordan Becker, the inexperienced 24-year-old left back from the University of Maryland – Baltimore County who is in his first season as a professional in the third tier USL, played a curling ball to the back post that Joe Farrell, the enterprising 22-year-old rookie centerback from La Salle University, ran onto and volleyed out of the air with aplomb on the edge of the six-yard box. Left with virtually no chance at all in between the Bethlehem Steel FC sticks was season debutant Samir Badr.

Bethlehem Steel FC, who were playing for the very first USL match this season without any Major League Soccer players on loan from the Philadelphia Union in its starting line-up, rallied to level the score a little more than ten minutes later. Gabe Gissie, the 19-year-old Liberian winger who troubled the Rhinos defense with his speed and skill before fading away in the second half, won his team a penalty after a strong run down the right flank. BSFC captain Ryan Richter, the 26-year-old veteran right back from La Salle University who only recently ended a personal streak of having made 46 consecutive appearances as a professional without scoring a goal, calmly stepped up to the spot and easily converted to notch his second tally of this 2016 USL campaign.

The Rochester Rhinos put the ball in the back of the net for a second time in the first half in the 38th minute of the sparsely-attended match but Steevan Humberto Fortes dos Santos, the 26-year-old striker from Cape Verde who previously played professionally in Norway as well as Angola, was ruled to have been in an offsides position.

Shortly before the hour, visiting Bethlehem Steel FC grabbed its first lead of the game after the Rochester Rhinos defense failed to clear a corner kick effectively. BSFC left back Matthew Real, the 16-year-old Philadelphia Union Academy player who was a very late addition to the team roster on display at the official website of the United Soccer League, made a fine play to first settle the ball and then lose his defender with the ole’ spin-o-rama move before passing off to midfielder Bolu Akinyode, who might have a had a shot but instead played the ball out wide to the right wing. A fine cross from veteran Irish midfelder James Chambers enabled BSFC centerback Michael Daly, the 28-year-old veteran who scored six goals in 59 USL games for Sacramento Republic FC the past two seasons combined, to net his first goal of this particular campaign with a confident header from about six yards away.

So, exactly why was Real removed from Bethlehem Steel FC’s Master Roster on display at the official website of the United Soccer League earlier in the week only to then be re-added later on the actual match day, itself? And how it is possible that Raheem Taylor-Parkes, the Philadelphia Union Academy midfield player who was removed from the Master Roster at the official USL website earlier in the week and still has not been re-added as of Sunday, May 29th (11:30 AM EST), was eligible to be in uniform and sitting on BSFC’s bench yesterday? These are valid questions and weak responses along the lines of, “Well, it’s the team’s first year” simply will not be reviewed favorably by people who constantly waste their valuable time foolishly trying to accurately follow this kindergarten soccer league which features head coaches who actually wear baseball hats!

Moving right along, substitute striker Corey Burke might have just as easily put the entire issue to bed for Bethlehem Steel FC in the 76th minute of the match but the 24-year-old attacker on loan for the season from Jamaican side Rivoli United FC blasted a fine centering pass midfielder Derrick Jones well over the bar from about eight yards out or so.

Bethlehem Steel FC’s youthful centerback Auston Trusty, the 17-year-old Philadelphia Union Academy player who was making his sixth start of this USL season thus far, appeared to have sealed the deal for the visitors when he cleared a ball off the goal line after Rochester Rhinos substitute striker Asani Samuels had successfully dribbled around the BSFC netminder Badr early into the extended injury time session.

But halting the Rochester Rhinos’ home unbeaten march was simply not meant to be for Bethlehem Steel FC. The inexperienced Badr probably never should have come so far off his line to try and deal with that high ball played to the edge of his eighteen-yard penalty box area but, if he does, then the 23-year-old either has to catch the ball cleanly or punch it away towards the sidelines. Whatever happens, Badr simply just can NOT steer the ball into the middle of the park or there will be terrible consequences — as the never-say-die Rhinos, after a little bit of head tennis as well as a second goal from the centerback Farrell, were clearly able to demonstrate to the delight of their supporters.


Rochester Rhinos 2:2 Bethlehem Steel FC

May 28, 2016
Rochester Rhinos Stadium – Rochester, New York
Attendance – not reported

Rochester Rhinos : Grinwis – Becker (Kamdem 62), Totsch (A. Samuels 62), Farrell, Apostolopoulos – Garzi, James (Guilavogui 72) – Ogarte (D. Samuel 72), Forbes, Tergou (Volesky 59) – Dos Santos

Bethlehem Steel FC : Badr – Real (Bibbs 83), Daly, Trusty, Richter – Akinyode, Jones – Gissie (Fred 89), Chambers, Luchini (Heard 77) – Conneh (Burke 73)

unused subs : Verdi – McKenzie, Taylor-Parkes

goals – Farrell 13, Richter (pen) 24, Daly 58, Farrell 95


Rochester Rhinos vs Bethlehem Steel FC
Attempts At Goal chart

9th min …… BSFC – Chambers shot wide
13th min …. ROCH – Farrell GOAL
17th min …. ROCH – Totsch shot saved
19th min …. BSFC – Richter shot saved
24th min … BSFC – Richter GOAL
58th min … BSFC – Daly GOAL
76th min … BSFC – Burke shot over
81st min …. ROCH – Forbes shot blocked by defender
92nd min … ROCH – Samuels shot cleared off line by defender
93rd min …. BSFC – Heard shot wide
95th min …. ROCH – Farrell GOAL

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Who Starts For Bethlehem Steel FC vs Rochester Rhinos On Saturday?


Alright, so earlier this week Philadelphia Union head coach Jim Curtin vowed to “take every single player on our roster” on the apparently grueling two-game road trip which culminates with the Major League Soccer match against the host Colorado Rapids out west on Saturday. Whether or not that pledge actually materialized remains to be determined but what it means is that it is quite possible that, for the very first time all season, this weekend expansion side Bethlehem Steel FC will play a United Soccer League match without the benefit of having any MLS players on loan from the parent club in their 18-man squad. A quick review of the Union’s official website confirms the identities of all 26 players under MLS contract and presumably unavailable to BSFC for their USL match against the host Rochester Rhinos this weekend :

Philadelphia Union MLS roster (numerical order)
goalkeeper – Blake, *Jones, *McCarthy
defender – *Washington, *Tribbett, Rosenberry, *Yaro, Marquez, *Anderson, Gaddis, Fabinho
midfield – Creavalle, Nogueira, *Alberg, Carroll, Edu, Le Toux, Barnetta, Pontius, *Ayuk, *Missimo, *Restrepo, *Fernandes, *Ilsinho
striker – *Herbers, Sapong

* currently listed on Bethlehem Steel FC’s official USL roster

According to the official report on file at the official website of Major League Soccer, the following eighteen players were in uniform for the Philadelphia Union’s midweek MLS match versus host Orlando City SC on Wednesday and, thus, are definitely with Curtin’s team on its two-game road trip at present : Blake, *Jones – Fabinho, Marquez, *Yaro, *Tribbett, Rosenberry, Gaddis – Creavalle, Carroll, Pontius, Barnetta, Le Toux, *Fernandes, *Alberg, *Restrepo – Sapong, *Herbers.

Additionally, there is little question that two other Philadelphia Union players who are also listed on Bethlehem Steel FC’s USL roster are definitely not going to be turning out for head coach Brendan Burke‘s side against the Rochester Rhinos in upstate New York this Saturday night. Speedy winger Eric Ayuk, who is BSFC’s joint top scorer this season with two goals and an assist in seven USL games thus far, is still in Africa in training with the Cameroon U-20 national team. And goalkeeper John McCarthy, the La Salle University product who has started eight of BSFC’s first nine USL matches so far this season, will definitely be needed to sit on the Union’s bench when Philadelphia clash with the Coloardo Rapids on Saturday night because Matt Jones, the veteran English goalkeeper on loan for the season from Portuguese club CD Belenenses, has gone home to be with his wife for the birth of the couple’s child – this according to a Friday afternoon tweet from pundit Kevin Kinkead.

There is unconfirmed speculation that Taylor Washington, the 22-year-old rookie defender out of George Mason University who was a second round pick (# 23 overall) at the 2016 MLS SuperDraft his past winter, did not travel with the Philadelphia Union this week. Considering how difficult it can often be for any soccer team competing at any level anywhere in the world to a actually field a competent left-footed left back, it quite possible that Washington, who has started all nine of Bethlehem Steel FC’s matches in the United Soccer League this season, was left behind to continue his run of games for the reserve side. Rookie winger Cole Missimo, the 23-year-old from Northwestern University who was a fourth round pick (# 64 overall) at the 2016 MLS SuperDraft, is another who very well might not have accompanied the Union on its current road trip.

Still, taking the Philadelphia bench boss Curtin at his literal word, bare-bones Bethlehem Steel FC’s official USL roster minus any players under MLS contract as of Friday evening (May 27th, 11:00 PM EST) is as follows :

goalkeeper – Badr, +Verdi
defender – Daly, Richter, Bibbs, +Trusty, +McKenzie
midfield – Jones, Akinyode, Chambers, Fred, Gissie, Luchini, Heard, +Conte, +DeZart
striker – Conneh, Burke, Brown

+ Philadelphia Union Academy player

It does seem all but certain that goalkeeper Samir Badr will be making his United Soccer League debut for Bethlehem Steel FC versus the host Rochester Rhinos on Saturday night. The 23-year-old journeyman who had a spell in the Egyptian top flight with Haras El Hadood SC a few seasons ago but is now with his third USL club in as many years has not made an appearance for BSFC since the pre-season exhibition schedule ended. Badr made seven USL appearances on behalf of the Colorado Springs Switchbacks last season (1.43 avg, 10 go, 24 sv) last season with his last start coming on August 26th of 2015.

If Washington is available, then Bethlehem Steel FC’s back line would certainly be one that is familiar to those who regular follow the USL side but, if not, then perhaps little-used Nick Bibbs would fill in at the important left back position. The 25-year-old veteran from Syracuse University, who has experience at both right back as well as in midfield, has not made one single appearance for BSFC this season since signing as a free agent from USL side Saint Louis FC this past winter. Bibbs, who reportedly was weighed down by injury issues during training camp, has been in uniform and on BSFC’s bench for the team’s last two USL matches.

Should either Washington or Bibbs man the left back position, then the previously battle-tested pairing of the veteran Mickey Daly and the youthful Auston Trusty will feature as the twin centerbacks in the Bethlehem Steel FC defense with the captain Ryan Richter retaining his usual place at the right back slot.

Bethlehem Steel FC will definitely be without James Chambers, the animated 29-year-old veteran midfielder from Ireland, is suspended after receiving his fifth yellow card of this 2016 United Soccer League campaign in the recent Commonwealth of Pennsylvania clash with the arch-rival Harrisburg City Islanders this past Sunday. Nigerian destroyer Bolu Akinyode will be counted on to occupy one of the two spots in BSFC’s defensive midfield but his normal partner, Derrick Jones, might very well be pushed up in the pivotal central attacking midfielder role. Although his precision passing game still needs a bit more fine tuning, the 19-year-old native of Ghana shows a natural inclination to get forward anyway and currently is joint top scorer for BSFC along with Ayuk on two goals and one assist this season.

Should Jones be stationed farther up the field than usual, expect Bethlehem Steel FC’s experienced 36-year-old Brazilian player / assistant coach Fred to play alongside the youthful Akinyode in defensive midfield for the away match against the Rochester Rhinos. As for a pair of flank players to sandwich Jones in the middle, this blog would not be surprised to see Gabe Gissie, the 19-year-old Liberian who spent the last two seasons with USL side Sacramento Republic FC, get a game on the left wing. And, assuming that Missimo does not appear in uniform for BSFC this weekend, then the blog would not be astounded to watch Lehigh University rookie Jamie Luchini operating on the right wing.

Up front at central striker for Bethlehem Steel FC versus the Rochester Rhinos on Saturday night figures to be a genuine toss up between Seku Conneh, the 20-year-old Liberian national team player who signed from Dutch second division side FC Oss this winter, and Corey Burke, the 24-year-old attacker who is on loan from Jamaican side Rivoli United FC. Conneh has already made eight USL appearances (two starts, 328 minutes, four shots on target, three shots off target) for BSFC but is still in search of his first goal for his new club. Burke has only recently come into the mix after missing much of this USL season through injury but has shown potential on his two substitute appearances for BSFC thus far.


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BSFC Promote Philadelphia Union Academy Goalkeeper


In the wake of the Philadelphia Union’s decision to take all three of the goalkeepers currently on its Major League Soccer roster along for the two-game road trip that culminates with the MLS match against the host Colorado Rapids this Saturday night, Bethlehem Steel FC have formally added netminder Andrew Verdi from Philadelphia Union Academy to its “Master Roster”, this according to a routine review of the official United Soccer League website early this Friday evening (May 27th, 7:45 PM EST).

Presumably, Verdi will be providing cover for senior professional Samir Badr this coming Saturday night in upstate New York when visiting Bethlehem Steel FC kick around with the host Rochester Rhinos. The 18-year-old goalkeeper who hails from Ivyland, Pennsylvania, already signed a national letter of intent to play for the University of Michigan and, on May 20th, the official website of the school’s athletic department published an an article confirming that the head coach of the Wolverines men’s soccer team, Chaka Daley, will be welcoming five incoming freshmen this fall – including the Philadelphia Union Academy player now on the USL roster of BSFC. Verdi, who reputedly stands six-foot, one-inch tall and tips the scales at 182 pounds, will be enrolling at the School of Literature, Science and the Arts in Ann Arbor.

Verdi becomes the seventh Philadelphia Union Academy player to be listed on the official United Soccer League roster of Bethlehem Steel FC at some point this season. Only two Academy players have actually seen any USL action although 17-year-old centerback Auston Trusty has made five starts for BSFC so far this season and earned favorable reviews for his work on defense. The only other Academy player who has logged any USL minutes for BSFC this term to date, 18-year-old midfielder Raheem Taylor-Parkes, was removed from the Master Roster earlier this week.

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Bethlehem Steel FC Roster News & Notes

(Glenn Koehler photo / East End Army supporters group)

If the Philadelphia Union substitute the veteran Brazilian centerback Anderson Conceicao for the injured rookie Joshua Yaro and then include the other seventeen players who were in uniform for the midweek Major League Soccer match versus host Orlando City SC on Wednesday evening in the traveling squad that is scheduled to meet the Colorado Rapids on Saturday night, then Bethlehem Steel FC will have to make due in their next United Soccer League match against the host Rochester Rhinos – which also happens to be this coming Saturday night – with the fewest number of players currently under MLS contract in their starting line-up as they have had to all season thus far.

And that might not be such a bad thing at all.

Twice this season – against the visiting Richmond Kickers as well as versus visiting FC Montreal – head coach Brendan Burke‘s Bethlehem Steel FC side has only had four MLS players on loan in its Startelf. Ironically enough, both of these USL matches at Lehigh Univeristy’s Goodman Stadium in question would result in 2-1 triumphs for fledgling BSFC. Four times already this season, the Philadelphia Union’s new USL farm club has featured seven MLS players in its first team and two other occasions have witnessed BSFC field six MLS players at kickoff; this past Sunday, BSFC had no fewer than eight MLS players in its starting line-up. In the seven USL matches that Bethlehem Steel FC have started with at least six MLS players on loan in its first team, Burke’s charges have managed to sport the decidedly uninspiring record of one win against three defeats with another three draws.

Furthermore, in these seven USL matches with at least six MLS players in its line-up, something less than flourishing Bethlehem Steel FC have managed to rack up all of five goals scored along the way.

Meanwhile, a routine review of the Bethlehem Steel FC roster on display at the official website of the United Soccer League this Thursday evening (May 26th, 11:45 PM EST) reveals one transaction this week. Raheem Taylor-Parkes, the 18-year-old Philadelphia Union Academy midfielder who already signed a national letter of intent to play collegiate soccer at the University of Virginia this fall, has been dropped from the BSFC squad, if only for the moment. This after Taylor-Parkes, with an excellent pass into space for Jamaican striker Corey Burke against visiting FC Montreal, had played such a pivotal role in the BSFC counterattack that ultimately resulted in a dramatic late game-winning goal via a successful spot kick from Derrick Jones only just a couple of weeks ago.

Bethlehem Steel FC current roster
goalkeeper – *M. Jones, *McCarthy, Badr
defense – *Yaro, *Tribbett, *Anderson, *Washington, Daly, Richter, Bibbs, +Trusty, +McKenzie
midfield – *Ilsinho, *Alberg, *Restrepo, *Fernandes, *Ayuk, *Missimo, Akinyode, D. Jones, Chambers, Fred, Gissie, Luchini, Heard, +Conte, +DeZart
attack – *Herbers, Conneh, Burke, Brown

* under contract to Philadelphia Union of Major League Soccer
+ Philadelphia Union Academy player

After being left out of Bethlehem Steel FC’s eighteen-man squad in uniform for the two out of the team’s last three United Soccer League matches, youthful centerback Auston Trusty will probably be issued a BSFC shirt this weekend. The 17-year-old United States U-20 national team player who has signed a national letter of intent to attend the University of North Carolina this fall, just made his season debut for Philadelphia Union Academy in a match against New York Red Bulls Academy this past weekend, according to the report filed by the “Brotherly Game” website. Trusty has already made five starts in the USL for BSFC this season, including one stretch of four on the trot.


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Cameroon U-20 Official On Importance Of Winning To Player Development

An unidentified Zimbabwe player sticks his left hand in a most strategic place in order to help himself shield the ball from the Cameroon defender during the goalless U-20 Africa Cup of Nations second round, first leg qualification match played in front of the sparse crowd at the National Sports Stadium in the capital city of Harare this past Sunday, May 22nd.

Just prior to his country’s important away match against host Zimbabwe this past weekend, visiting Cameroon U-20 national team media officer Albert Njie Mbonde gave an interview with the government-owned “The Herald” newspaper published in Harare and had some rather interesting things to say in the piece, “Tapera Braces For Cameroon Battle”, that appeared last Saturday.

“But for us, it is essential to first of all get these boys to be familiar with high-level competition, such international games because at the end the final issue is getting players who can integrate with the senior (national team) squad, you remember that Cameroon will be hosting the 2019 (Africa) Cup of Nations so we start building that from now,” Mbonde began before touching on other subjects.

“As Cameroon, we always try to build the winning approach in our players so we take the match seriously even if we know it is going to be a tough match for us,” Mbonde continued. “A draw wouldn’t be a bad score, but in Cameroon we don’t train players to play draws, but to win. A draw wouldn’t be a bad one. We train them to do everything they can to avoid defeat so that’s the first major objective,” the U-20 national team official concluded.

So, then, even though the Cameroon U-20 national team media officer immediately acknowledged the ultimate goal involved, the development of players who can compete at the senior level tomorrow, there is still an overt emphasis on the junior side getting a favorable result today to follow.


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BSFC’s Ayuk Stationed As Lone Striker By Cameroon U-20 Side

Cameroon striker Eric Ayuk (# 11) of Bethlehem Steel FC and an unidentified Zimbabwe player battle for the ball during the scoreless 2017 U-20 Africa Cup of Nations second round, first leg qualification match contested at the massive National Sports Stadium in Harare on Sunday, May 22nd … (photo courtesy of Daily News Cameroon).

According to the report filed by Kila Jisi at the “Lions 4 Life” website, the Cameroon U-20 national team opted to use a 4-2-3-1 formation against the Zimbabwe U-20 national side in the 2017 U-20 Africa Cup of Nations second round, first leg qualification match that ended in a 0-0 draw at the National Sports Stadium in Harare yesterday. Operating as the lone central striker up front for the Young Indomitable Lions side selected by U-20 national team trainer Cyprian Besong Ashu was none other than Eric Ayuk, the foreign legionnaire who plays his professional soccer all the way across the Atlantic Ocean for Bethlehem Steel FC in the United Soccer League. Ironically enough, although Bethlehem Steel FC do prefer to play utilizing a 4-2-3-1 formation, the simple fact is that BSFC usually deploy Ayuk wide on the flank and sometimes have him operate as central attacking midfielder but the speedy Cameroonian has never appeared in the USL as a lone striker up top to date.

Ayuk, who has netted two goals in his seven USL matches for Bethlehem Steel FC thus far this term, did make one appearance for the Philadelphia Union as the lone striker up top in the 4-2-3-1 formation during training camp earlier this year. Reportedly, the would-be Cameroon U-20 international was exchanged for German rookie striker Fabian Herbers in the 60th minute of the pre-season exhibition match against the Chicago Fire of Major League Soccer down in Florida back on February 11th. Ayuk, who currently has an MLS contract with the Philadelphia Union but has been buried underneath several other players on the depth chart at wing, made 28 MLS appearances and scored two goals while wearing the Union shirt last season.

It was a “marauding Cameroon strike force” that forced Zimbabwe goalkeeper Nelson Chadya to make “crucial saves” during the U-20 Africa Cup of Nations qualification match at the National Sports Stadium in Harare on Sunday, May 22nd, this according to the match report at the official website of Confederation Africaine de Football :

“In fact, Zimbabwe had to thank the heroics of young Ngezi Platinum Stars goalkeeper Nelson Chadya who made numerous otherwise the story could have been different,” wrote an unnamed author in the post-game summary offered by “The Zimbabwe Mail” newspaper.

Presumably, given his role as the lone striker in his team’s formation, Ayuk played an integral part in the Cameroonian attack which, by all accounts, ultimately turned the Zimbabwe shot-stopper Chadya into the proverbial star of this particular international match. Surely such a report would please the Philadelphia Union technical staff, who certainly must be concerned about how Ayuk’s development progresses as this qualification tie plays itself out.

CAMEROON U-20 national team starting line-up, formation in Harare :

goalkeeper – Omossola
defense – Bahanack, Makongo, Rodrique, Makani
def midfield – Oum, Hongla
att midfield – Ako, Landry, Mpindi
striker – Ayuk


Meanwhile, in other news emerging from this Zimbabwe v Cameron U-20 ACN qualification match played in Harare on Sunday, there is a major discrepancy regarding the visitors’ team sheet. “NewsDay”, an independently-run newspaper organization in Zimbabwe which is, of course, a competitor in the very same marketplace as the government-run “The Herald”, reported that Cameroon second half substitute Herve Bodiong, the midfielder who spent the entire 2015/16 season on loan to Cyprus top flight side Pafos FC from French second division club FC Tours, actually replaced the Bethlehem Steel FC winger Ayuk in the 72nd minute. As it was, “The Herald” listed Mikal Landry, the midfielder who currently plays for the reserve side of traditional Belgian powerhouse RSC Anderlecht of Brussels, as the one who made way for Bodiong at the National Sports Stadium in its match report.

“”, a French-language website that concerns itself with all things associated with Cameroonian soccer, formally went with the line-up as listed by “NewsDay”. Interestingly enough, the official website of Federation de Camerounaise de Football, itself, has not yet posted a match report regarding the U-20 Africa Cup of Nations in in Harare even though it did post an article naming the Cameroon traveling squad previously. For its part, the official website of the Zimbabwe Football Association does offer a game summary but does not list the line-ups used by the two teams.


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Scoreless Draw For Ayuk’s Cameroon vs Zimbabwe In U20 ACN Qualifier

Zimbabwe forward Prince Dube (# 9) from Highlanders FC of Bulawayo is chased by Cameroon defender Grace Makani of AS Etoa-Meki Yaounde during the tense U-20 Africa Cup of Nations qualification match played at the National Sports Stadium in Harare on Sunday, May 22nd … (photo courtesy The Herald)

Bethlehem Steel FC winger Eric Ayuk started and went the full ninety minutes for the away side but, like everybody else who participated in this particular match, did not score a goal as visiting Cameroon were held to a 0-0 draw by host Zimbabwe in the 2017 U-20 Africa Cup of Nations second round, first leg tie contested at the National Sports Stadium in Harare.

Cameroon, who are currently seeking to qualify for the bi-annual U-20 Africa Cup of Nations final tournament for the first time since finishing second at the 2011 edition held in South Africa, had two foreign-based players in the first team sent out onto the pitch at the National Sports Stadium in Harare – the BSFC winger Ayuk and midfielder Mikal Landry from the reserve side of traditional Belgian powerhouse RSC Anderlecht of Brussels. The third foreign-based player in Cameroon’s 20-man traveling squad, midfielder Herve Bodiong from Cyprus top flight side Pafos FC, came on as a substitute for Landry with a little over a quarter of an hour to play. By comparison, host Zimbabwe, who have never ever qualified for a place at the final tournament of the bi-annual U-20 Africa Cup of Nations, fielded a squad entirely comprised of domestic players.

Cameroon created the first dangerous scoring chance in the just the sixth minute with a free kick played into the penalty box but a glancing header went over the crossbar. Zimbabwe reputedly had its very best opportunity of the entire match after Thomas Kadyaridzira embarked on a solo run into the box in the 13th minute but the Chicken Inn FC of Bulawayo forward could only shoot straight at Cameroon goalkeeper Simon Omossola of Coton Sport Gorua. Zimbabwe threatened again less than a minute later but forward Bhukosi Shibanda of Bantu Rovers shot wide of the target while inside the box.

Thereafter, by all accounts, the star of the game was Zimbabwe goalkeeper Nelson Chadya from Ngezi Platinum FC of Zvishavane. In the 22nd minute, the visiting Cameroonians unleashed a hard, long shot from outside the penalty area but Chadya was able to dive down low and hold the ball. Chadya also “kept the hosts in the match, especially towards the end of the game,” wrote The Herald, the government-owned daily newspaper that is the country’s largest and is published in the capital city of Harare.

Zimbabwe : Chadya – Lunga, B. Ncube, Phiri, Chodera, Musaka, Br. Sibanda, A. Ncube (Mavhunga 46), Kadyaridzira (Nyamuzihwa 85), Dube, Bu. Sibanda (Tofira 75)

Cameroon : Omossola – Makani, Makango, Rodrique, Bahamack, Samuel, Hongla, Ako (Mben 62), Mpindi, Landry (Bodiong 72), Ayuk

Meanwhile, the Cameroon U-20 national team trainer was openly confident about his team’s prospects in the very near future.

“It could have been much better. We could live with it (the goalless draw). We still have the second leg at home but it was an average performance from us because we can step up another gear even though we created a number of chances. We could have done better,” stated Cameroon bench boss Cyprian Besong Ashu.

“I think Zimbabwe did their best. They tried their best but I think we could do better. We looked stronger, quicker in the game and I think back home it would be a different game and I expect us to go through (to the next qualifying round),” Ashu added.

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