Skipper sinks Canada with injury-time glory goal
Rodolph Austin led by example with an injury-time header to earn Jamaica a slender 1-0 success over Canada, and puts the Reggae Boyz in a strong position to reach the next phase of the CONCACAF Gold Cup.
Austin was a rampant figure, on top of his trademark inspirational captaincy role, inside the BBVA Stadium in Houston, Texas on Saturday and took his close-range effort with aplomb.
And the 30-year-old’s strike bounced Jamaica to the top of Group B on Saturday courtesy of their maiden win over North American opposition in 10 Gold Cup attempts.
Tournament favourites Costa Rica and El Salvador were involved in a 1-1 stand-off on Saturday night.
But Canada veteran goalkeeper Kyriakos Stamatopoulos came perilously close to denying Winfried Schäfer’s side a deserved victory with a string of stunning saves that frustrated the forwards.
Yet Benito Floro, Canada’s head coach, was expecting all the accolades to be at the other end of the pitch with Orlando City’s Cyle Larin given a lone striker’s role.
The 20-year-old, who kicked off his professional career with six goals in 13 matches, followed up his poor and costly miss against El Salvador last Wednesday with another lame attempt against the Boyz in the opening exchanges.
And Larin would have been kicking himself for his error of judgment had Stamatopoulos not been at full stretch to deny Simon Dawkins’ low effort on nine minutes.
Dwayne Miller, Jamaica’s shot-stopper who was caught out against Costa Rica on Wednesday with two clueless late rushes off his line that both resulted in goals, was keen to make amends and on 12 minutes ably dealt with Tosaint Ricketts’ fierce drive.
Jamaica’s Giles Barnes, playing in front of his MLS-home fans in Houston, tore thorough opponents and on his first run unselfishly squared the ball for Simon Dawkins only for the ball go sailing over the crossbar.
Austin was as guilty as his team-mates for fluffing his long-range effort, then David Edgar saved Canada with his goal-line clearance from Kemar Lawrence’s shot from a tight angle just before the half-hour mark.
And on the cusp of half-time Stamatopoulos lost out on an aerial challenge, but did enough to deflect Mariappa’s header away for another corner despite ending up on the floor.
Floro’s side were being dominated by a physical side during the opening 45 minutes and Larin, replaced by Marcus Haber at half-time, looked most unlikely to add to his international goal tally of three – clearly unable to deal with the pressure of being one of the country’s best players.
Jamaica’s attacking intent continued after the interval with Barnes constantly finding pockets of space despite failing to get the service his runs warranted. And Barnes came close to breaking the deadlock on the hour-mark with a curling free-kick, following Edgar’s foul on Jobi McAnuff, that clipped the crossbar.
With the tie appearing to be heading for a scoreless stalemate in the harsh Texas heat, Austin hit the jackpot by shaking off his marker in the centre of the box and burying Mariappa’s pin-point right wing cross for a stoppage time winner.
Austin, who bagged his first international goal in six matches, said: “We’re used to the heat more than Canada’s players, but we want to win games all the time.”
The deserved triumph lifted the Boyz to four points in Group B’s standings, ahead of Canada, Costa Rica and El Salvador.
Getting past the group stage is the goal for all four teams, but Wednesday’s double-header at the BMO Field in Toronto will decide which sides progress from a very tight group.
The Boyz may have halted their four-game winless run with Austin’s saviour strike, but the alarm bells remain without a goal from a striker and draw specialists El Salvador are the final group opponent to determine who will progress.
JAMAICA: Miller; Lawrence, Taylor, Morgan, Mariappa; McAnuff, Watson, Austin, McCleary; Dawkins (Mattocks, 65), Barnes Subs: Blake, Thompson, Hector, Powell, Laing, Phillips, Humphrey, Grant, Clennon, Ottey, Seaton
CANADA: Stamatopoulos; De Jong, Edgar, Jakovic, Ledgerwood; Akindele (Teibert, 81), Piette (Hainault, 80), Straith, De Guzman, Ricketts; Larin (Haber, 45) Subs: Hirschfeld, Roberts, Jakovic, Morgan, Ouimette, Bekker, Osorio, Pacheco, Tissot, Jackson
JAMAICA’S FINAL GROUP B FIXTURE
July 14: El Salvador v Jamaica (BMO Field, Toronto, 6pm ko local time).
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