Gold Cup Dream Continues for Jamaica
Mattocks adds rhythm to Reggae Boyz to book semi-final slot
Darren Mattocks set up both goals as Jamaica’s Reggae Boyz soared into the Gold Cup semi-finals with a polished performance to fend off Canada 2-1 on Thursday evening.
The Portland Timbers hot-shot picked out Shaun Francis on six minutes and rising star Romario Williams on 50 minutes to hand the Boyz a commanding and deserved lead.
But Canada tried clawing their way back into tie at the University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Arizona with the tricky Junior Hoilett reducing the deficit on the hour-mark.
And it was Hoilett who came closest to snatching an equaliser as the Canadians desperately pushed for an equaliser, only for brilliant shotshopper Andre Blake to put off a string of saves to send the Boyz to the semi-final stage for the second successive Gold Cup tournament.
Theodore Whitmore’s troops will tackle Mexico next, a repeat of their 2015 Gold Cup final meeting, at the Rose Bowl in California on Sunday brimming with confidence.
It was the buoyant Boyz who blasted themselves into an early lead when Mattocks’ cross from a counter-attack found Francis at the back post, and he duly thumped the ball past stunned keeper Milan Borjan.
Canada, who like Jamaica qualified for the knockout stages as group runners-up with an unbeaten record, were in new territory as they found themselves trailing for the first time in this year’s Gold Cup.
And with the Boyz again fielding their usual resolute back four that had only conceded once all tournament, Canada seemed out of sorts.
Canada’s best chance of the opening half fell to Cyle Larin, whose header from a neat set-piece went narrowly wide of the target.
Disaster struck for Canada, in the Gold Cup quarter-finals for the first time since 2009, when Williams curled a 25-yarder home early in the second half.
The industrious Mattocks, who twice came close to scoring, confidently controlled the ball against an attentive defence. He picked out Williams, who despite being afforded a small amount of space, lashed his effort into the far corner. Borjan managed to get a hand to the effort but it was not enough to deny the 22-year-old.
Canada had been pinning their hopes on Larin and 16-year-old sensation Alphonso Davies, but neither were able to turn on the style against the physical presence of the Boyz.
Davies, who had scored three of Canada’s five group game goals, had missed the previous match because of an ankle injury that clearly prevented the teenager living up to his star billing against the Boyz.
And with Canada having struggled to make much of an impact against the dogged determination of the Boyz, the complex of the tie altered on the hour-mark when Hoilett’s long-range effort reduced the deficit.
Hoilett’s impressive strike simply sailed into the upper right corner of the net, past Blake’s outstretched arms, to turn the tie into a mouth-watering contest for the neutral fan.
With Canada desperate for an equaliser, they pushed forward at every opportunity with wave after wave of attacks. And Hoilett came close to snatching a goal only for the industrious Blake to make a magnificent fingers save.
Overall it proved unlucky 13 for Canada, who had 13 shots compared to Jamaica’s seven.
Last-ditch defending and the brilliance of Blake kept Canada at bay, including a close late effort from Michael Petrasso, to send the Boyz bouncing into a semi-final showdown with Mexico.
Jamaica and Mexico played out a dour scoreless draw in their group game, but their next meeting should possess some fireworks especially with the Boyz suddenly firing on all cylinders and with such aces in their pack as likewise strikers Mattocks and Williams.
Williams, plying his trade in North America with USL’s Charleston Battery (on loan from Charleston) where he has scored 14 goals in as many games, bagged arguably the goal of the tie.
He said: “I’ve a lot of confidence in my ability. As a player, all you want is a chance to show what you can do and prove your worth.
“It’s been a good year so far. I’ve been getting a lot of support from my teammates, wherever that is. I’ve grown as a player, and hopefully better things lie ahead.”
Whitmore, who has an experiment squad at his disposal, explained: “We look at Romario [Williams] game by game and he keeps improving, that’s what we need.”
“He can always give more and we demand more from him, but I’m happy with where he’s at right now.”
JAMAICA: Blake; Lowe, Taylor, Powell, Lawrence; Francis (Burke, 67 mins), Watson, Lambert (Binns, 89 mins), Gordon; Williams (Richie. 84 mins), Mattocks. Subs not used: Nicholson, Campbell, Harriott, Grandison,, Morris, Miller, Hyatt, Fisher, Johnson
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