Saudi Arabia Rock Docile Reggae Boyz

Author: Neil-Monticelli Harley-Rüdd

Theodore Whitmore’s headaches worsened in Asia as Jamaica kicked off their double-header against Saudi Arabia with a poor 3-0 reversal in Riyad today (14 November), to taste their first defeat in eight games.

Down to his barebones of a depleted squad, Whitmore tried to inject some life into the second half by giving injured Ravel Morrison his international debut.

But even the introduction of the journeyman, suffering an ankle injury with bruising and a stretched ligament, alongside rising star Leon Bailey and burly striker Bobby Decordova-Reid after the interval could not save the blushes from a timid display where the team played like a group of strangers.

  

The hosts made a solid start, Mohamed Kanno’s header from the left side of the area narrowly missing the target after five minutes.

But five minutes later Saudi Arabia took a deserved lead. Kemar Lawrence was harshly shown the yellow card for handling Kanno’s effort from outside the box. Swedish-based shotshopper Dwayne Miller saved Salem Al-Dawsari’s spot-kick at the bottom left corner, only for the winger to swiftly follow up and fire the loose ball into the back of the gaping goalmouth.

The Boyz did hit a three-minute purple patch, just before the half-hour mark, which came to nothing. Skipper Damion Lowe sending Norman Campbell’s telling corner high over the target from close range. Then Lawrence tried to thread a throughball to Kemal Malcolm, but the Arnett Gardens FC forward was caught offside.

On the stroke of the half-time whistle, the hosts doubled their lead when Saleh Al-Shehri found the bottom left corner to leave the Green Falcons in command and the Boyz bruised.Head coach Whitmore, who has been constantly shuffling his pack in order to deal with an on-going set of perplexities ever since the announcement of back-to-back matches at the imposing Prince Faisal bin Fahd Stadium, threw caution to the wind after their poor opening half by sending on player after player to no avail.

His tactics failed miserably, and it was only a question of time as to when the hosts would add to their tally with the early efforts from Ayman Yahya, the industrious Kanno, Salem Al-Dawsari going perilously close.

Saudi Arabia head coach Herve Renard was also missing a number of experienced players including regular goalkeeper Mohammed Al-Owais, Yahya Al-Shehri and Abdullah Otayf, but he stuck with his tactics in their return to action following their shock Arabian Gulf Cup 1-0 reversal in the final to Bahrain last December. 

Yet the visitors, whose previous defeat was at the hands of the mighty USA at the CONCACAF Gold Cup in July 2019, were putty in the Saudi Arabia’s hands as they were completely outmanoeuvred in every department apart from between the sticks.

  

Jamaica may have fielded a much strong side than their past international outing in March, when they scored a 2-0 success with only island-based players to see off minnows Bermuda in Montego Bay. However, the midfield pair of Harbour View FC’s Jahshaun Anglin, who made his debut against Bermuda, and Portmore United’s Lamar Walker, were recalled to kick off the match with Whitmore down to his bare bones of only 17 available fit players.

But the excuses about selection problems need to end there, as the 11 on the pitch never gelled as a team. Their one bright spark was Kevon Lambert’s header that whistled over the crossbar just before the hosts made it 3-0. Abdullah Al-Hamdan set up Aeras Al-Birakan, who beat overworked Miller on 77 minutes to end any glimmer of hope of a fightback.

And in injury time Miller was called into action, denying Mohammed Al-Burayk’s effort to save any more humiliation for the disorganised Boyz.

Admittedly Whitmore had encountered a string of problems after naming his 24-strong roster, but he cannot afford a repeat performance in Tuesday’s friendly in Riyadh otherwise his dreams of leading the Boyz to the 2022 World Cup finals could soon become a nightmare.

Four Reggae Boyz swarm an Argentine player in the 2015 Copa America tournament

Jamaica: Dwayne Miller – Kemar Lawrence, Damion Lowe, Kevon Lambert, Gregory Leigh – Jashaun Anglin (Ravel Morrison 45), Daniel Johnson (Michael Hector 70) – Norman Campbell (Leon Bailey 45), Kaheem Parris (Bobby Decordova-Reid 45), Lamar Walker (Tyreek Magee 62) – Kemal Malcolm (Chavany Willis 78). Sub: Amal Knight

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