Kemar Roofe and Oneil Fisher bagged their first international goals to help secure Jamaica’s maiden victory of the CONCACAF 2022 World Cup qualifying campaign with a 2-0 success over Honduras last night (13 October).
Roofe redirected Shamar Nicholson’s shot to break the deadlock on 38 minutes, with Fisher sinking the hosts’ hopes on 79 minutes. The triumph lifted the Reggae Boyz off the bottom of the eight-team qualifiers table into sixth spot.
With Honduras in disarray with their worst ever start to a World Cup qualifying campaign, and San Pedro Sula regarded as one of the most violent cities in the world, then Jamaica’s troops needed to show resilience and fight inside the hostile Estadio Olimpico Metropolitano in San Pedro Sula.
Yet to make matters worse for the Boyz, the Soccer Federation of Honduras decided on the eve of their showdown to part ways with head coach Fabián Coito. Yet they left him in charge to tackle Jamaica.
Theodore Whitmore was also under pressure before the contest. The Jamaica head coach had produced such poor results which could leave them out of next year’s highly lucrative FIFA World Cup in Qatar. And there were rumours flying around before kick-off that another defeat could signal the end for him being at the helm.
As usual Whitmore was forced to juggle his team. He only had 19 players at his disposal, which included the absence of injured Philadelphia Union wing back Alvas Powell and striker Jamal Lowe who was recalled by AFC Bournemouth. But the good news was that Damion Lowe returned from suspension to slot into central defence.
Maynor Figueroa, the 38-year-old defender who had faced Whitmore as a player at club level in England and on the international scene, was missing from the Honduras line-up following his red card in their 3-0 reversal to Mexico last Sunday.
Jamaica looked solid in the opening half with their formidable 4-4-2 formation ably spearheaded by Nicholson and Roofe. In contrast Coito’s side looked disjointed and appeared desperate with just two midfielders yet opting for the four forwards of Alberth Elis, Alex López, Bryan Moya and Ángel Tejeda.
Blake brilliantly fended off the opening attack after 88 seconds after López picked out Tejeda. And after 13 minutes Elis wasted his close-range chance with his snatched effort.
Jamaica were suddenly jolted into action so strived to score, but shotstopper Luis López dealt with the dangers on 16, 18 and 27 minutes respectively.
The black shirts of Jamaica began to boss the midfield to press the home defence, and were rewarded for their endeavours with a goal towards the half-time whistle. A poor clearance in the packed penalty area from Marcelo Pereira saw the ball crash into Andy Najar, with Nicholson’s attempt landing nicely for Roofe to thump high into the roof of the net.
With Honduras, who like Jamaica had failed to notch a win in their opening five World Cup qualifiers, eager to grab at least a share of the spoils, Coito went hell for leather with a series of second-half substitutions that included bringing on even more firepower.
This tweak saw Honduras overpower the Boyz who only survived the onslaught thanks to Blake’s trio of impressive saves that denied Moya, Elis and midfielder Kervin Arriaga.
With Jamaica on the ropes and their pass accuracy astray, Whitmore threw on striker Andre Gray and defender Javain Brown. Two minutes later his tactics paid dividends courtesy of Fisher doubling their lead.
Gray made an instant impact in a smart counter-attack by setting up Fisher in the box, and the LA Galaxy star took his opportunity well by cutting inside and thumping it into the back of the net from a tricky angle.
Whitmore and his bench were jumping for joy at the sight of a much-needed success. And with the safe hands of Blake to make a pair of late saves, Jamaica earned a second clean sheet on the bounce but more importantly a vital victory.
English-born Roofe, who only decided to represent the Boyz this year, has taken four internationals to open his goal-scoring account while Portmore’s Fisher – who plays at both right back and midfield – bagged his first goal after 21 games.
This triumph has resulted in Jamaica leapfrogging Honduras in the octagonal to sixth place with five points, the same as El Salvador who only lie behind on goal difference. The top three automatically qualify for Qatar 2022, while the fourth-placed team go into a play-off against a side from either the Asian, Oceanian or South American regions.
Finally getting off the mark, with their first ever World Cup win in Honduras, should instil confidence for the Boyz. They will be surely expect to chalk up more points next month, when they visit El Salvador before hosting the United States on the bumpy pitch in Kingston.
Whitmore has kept a more settled squad for these World Cup qualifiers. Now his side is gelling together and finally scoring goals, so he can tinker with his plethora of star strikers to potentially scare the opposition.
With a strong defence and remarkable goalkeeper in Blake there is no excuse for a repeat of the Panama debacle, when the Boyz were humiliated 3-0 inside Kingston’s National Stadium.
Having the middle of the pitch packed with bona fide midfielders rather than forcing strikers out of position seems the way forward for Whitmore, whose transparent tactics really do need shaking up if they are want to qualify for Qatar 2022.
He has eight qualifiers remaining, with five home matches, and the final game of the campaign could be a banker as they greet Honduras in March.
JAMAICA: Blake – Lawrence, D.Lowe, Watson, Mariappa – Flemmings (Gray, 76), Grant (East, 90), Williams, Fisher – Nicholson (Brown, 77), Roofe (Decordaova-Reid, 58). Subs: Topey, Barnes, Magee, White
CONCACAF World Cup qualifiers | Canada 4 Panama 1, El Salvador 0 Mexico 2, Honduras 0 Jamaica 2, USA 2 Costa Rica 1
CONCACAF World Cup qualifiers table (after 6 matches) | Mexico 14pts, USA 8pts, Canada 10pts, Panama 8pts, Costa Rica 6pts, Jamaica 5pts, El Salvador 5pts, Honduras 3pts.
Jamaica’s FIFA 2022 World Cup qualifiers
2 September | 2-1 defeat to Mexico (a)
5 September | 3-0 defeat to Panama (h)
8 September | 1-1 draw with Costa Rica (a)
7 October | 2-0 defeat to USA (a)
10 October | 0-0 draw with Canada (h)
13 October | 2-0 win over Honduras (a)
12 November | El Salvador (a)
16 November | USA (h)
27 January | Mexico (h)
30 January | Panama (a)
2 February | Costa Rica (h)
24 March | El Salvador (h)
27 March | Canada (a)
30 March | Honduras (h)
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