British-based duo Bailey and Morrison on target in Jamaica’s maiden home success of dismal World Cup qualifying campaign
Leon Bailey and Ravel Morrison each slotted home to finally hand Jamaica interim head coach Paul Hall his first victory in the role as the Reggae Boyz beat Honduras 2-1 last night (30 March).
The British-based pair both found the net during a thrilling opening half, to cancel out Angel Tejeda’s opener. Yet after the turnaround it was a contest of attrition with no real excitement inside the National Stadium in Kingston.
Jamaica, having suffered their worst defeat of their woeful CONCACAF World Cup qualifying campaign last weekend with a 4-0 reversal in Canada, were seeking to bounce back to score their first home success.
Having never tasted a defeat to Honduras in Kingston, and with October’s reverse fixture easily won 2-0 in San Pedro Sula, hopes were high for a rare Jamaica triumph. Especially as Honduras had failed to register a single win during their qualifiers.
With Jamaica having only accumulated three points from their previous six home games, a win was certainly long overdue.
Bailey, rested for the match in freezing conditions in Toronto, returned to the squad and soon made his presence known with an early neat run. After cleverly cutting inside his marker he powered his effort high over the target.
Honduras immediately responded with Kevin Lopez narrowly wide of the left post as the visitors began to stamp their authority on the contest.
Mount Pleasant striker Daniel Green should have given the Boyz the lead, but twice snatched at his shots to fire the ball straight at Honduras goalkeeper Luis Lopez.
At the other end skipper Blake pushed Tejeda’s ambitious long-range shot over the bar. From the resultant corner there was some controversy.
The visitors were awarded a penalty, after the video assistant referee (VAR) ruled that a Jamaican player had handled the ball inside the box. Diving Blake got a touch to the spot-kick, but Tejeda’s power beat him to hand Honduras an 18th-minute lead.
Against the run of play the Boyz equalised through a penalty, after Jamoi Topey was pulled down by Wesly Decas. Lopez got a hand to Bailey’s left-footed bullet, low to his right, but was beaten by the sheer power.
Jamaica went into the break with a slender lead after Morrison scored during added time. Bailey’s corner bounced around the area before Morrison buried the ball with a superb 14-yard volley, whistling through the jam-packed box into the same corner that Bailey had scored.
After such an exciting opening 45 minutes the second half was a massive disappointment and became a scrappy affair, which highlighted why both teams had failed so miserably to reach the FIFA World Cup finals in Qatar.
There was some drama on the hour-mark when Green was shown a straight red card following an aerial challenge by Argentina referee Keylor Herrera. However, after a VAR review this was downgraded to a yellow card. Hall wisely withdrew the striker and replaced him with midfielder Lamar Walker.
With Honduras hustling for the equaliser, forcing three corners to zero for Jamaica, they were aiming to score from their seemingly endless counter-attacks. But these were soon scooped up by the home defence.
Hall, whose side had deteriorated after the turnaround and were unable to create any clear cut goal-scoring opportunities, his last throw of the dice was an 82nd-minute double substitution of bringing on whizzy winger Alex Marshall and attacker Atapharoy Bygrave on for Richard King and Andre Gray.
The final whistle must have been music to Hall’s ears to have finally secured his first win in seven matches, as Jamaica made it four victories on the bounce against the Hondurans.
It should not be overlooked that since the triumphant run that earned the Boyz their one and only appearance at the World Cup finals in 1998, they have struggled to make an impact in the qualifiers. Yet these three points marked their best campaign in the final round of World Cup qualifying since making it to the France ‘98 finals.
Honduras, whose last appearance in the World Cup finals was eight years ago, looked lost under respected head coach Hernan Gomez who was only appointed last October but has lost every match.
For former Reggae Boy Hall, who has been dividing his time with coaching QPR’s U23 side in the English Championship, just a single success in seven matches may not be enough to convince the Jamaica Football Federation to offer him the head coach on a permanent basis.
When he was appointed in December, after Theodore Whitmore was axed, Jamaica were in sixth place after eight games with seven points. But Hall has picked up just four points to finish sixth.
Understandably the Jamaica fans and former players are divided about whether Hall, arguably a cheap stop-gap temporary head coach for the JFF, should be given a shot at the helm.
Whoever the JFF appoints is expected to reach the 2026 World Cup finals as during the qualifiers there will be the notable absence of Canada, Mexico and the United States as these nations will all play host.
Jamaica: Blake – Leigh, Lowe, Topey (Ximines, 70), Mariappa, King (Marshall, 82) – Williams, Morrison, Bailey – Green (Walker, 68) – Gray (Bygrave, 82). Subs not used: Knight, Barnes, Thomas, Howell, Atkinson, Rose, Nelson, Pearson
CONCACAF World Cup qualifiers: Costa Rica 2 USA 0, Jamaica 2 Honduras 1, Mexico 2 El Salvador 0, Panama 1 Canada 0
Canada, Mexico and USA qualify automatically for 2022 FIFA World Cup finals. Costa Rica face an Intercontinental play-off against New Zealand.
Final CONCACAF World Cup qualifying table: Canada 28pts (+18 goal difference), Mexico 28pts (+9), USA 25pts (+14), Costa Rica 25pts (+5), Panama 21pts (-1), Jamaica 11pts (-11), El Salvador 10pts (-8), Honduras 4pts (-19)
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