Depleted Jamaica defend like demons against the African giants
Merron Gordon’s maiden match in charge of the Jamaica’s Reggae Boyz saw them run ragged to suffer a 3-0 defeat at the hands of managerless Morocco today.
The interim head coach, who had never lost when he was at the helm with the Reggae Girlz, did exceptionally well to steer his troops to a 1-0 half-time deficit.
But the experience of the FIFA World Cup-bound opposition proved too hot to handle after the interval. The Boyz tried to play with composure, but towards the end simply shored up their defence like crazy.
Ahmed Hammoudan broke the deadlock on 33 minutes, with strikers Mohamed Zrida (74 minutes) and Reda Slim (80 minutes) also on target.
Gordon, who has taken temporary charge for the four-nation tournament in Austria, added more players to bolster his primarily Jamaica-based squad. These included England-based attacking midfielder Javani Brown from Exeter City, who wasn’t named in today’s squad, and veteran defender Adrian Mariappa who plies his trade in Australia.
With Gordon given a reprieve against the mighty Ghana, who were unable to tackle the Boyz last weekend because of visa delays, this was his initial test.
The heavily-depleted Boyz, who appear to simply be making up the numbers for the Austria Mini Football Tournament in Vienna, took to the pitch at the Ernst-Happel-Stadion as underdogs.
This was despite 27-year-old international goalkeeper Ayoub Lakred having to sit in the dugout to take temporary charge of the Moroccan side.
Morocco axed head coach Vahid Halilhodzic this month. This was allegedly partly because the Bosnian had fallen out with star midfielder Hakim Ziyech of Chelsea, and partly due to Morocco’s poor performances at January’s Africa Cup of Nations finals.
Morocco, at world no.22 ranked 31 places higher than Jamaica, took control from the first whistle. Yet the Boyz relied on a solid defensive display from former captain Mariappa.
Once central midfielder opened the scoring, it wasn’t long before the nerves set in for the Jamaicans and the contest became tetchy.
Oquassa Chong was booked just before half-time. Gordon wisely hauled him off within 10 minutes of the second half, as he feared a second caution for his young midfielder.
On the hour-mark Lakred shook things up with a trio of substitutes. His decision paid dividends as from then on it was plain sailing as Morocco bossed the game, running at the Boyz in a cavalier fashion.
Gordon used three second-half substitutes before striker Zrida doubled their lead on 74 minutes.
Defender Alwayne Harvey then replaced midfielder Ramone Howell to try to keep the score down, only for substitute forward Slim to add to Jamaica’s misery by extending their lead and killing off any slim chance of a fightback by the Boyz.
With Gordon fearful of conceding more goals, he pulled off his ineffective strike force of Demario Phillips and Jourdain Fletcher on 81 minutes. They were replaced by defender Nickoy Christian and front man Colorado Murray, but this merely handed Morocco a challenge to score ahead.
The 3-0 reversal, mainly with players who ply their trade in the Jamaica Premier League, was certainly not a debacle.
Gordon said: “Since Adrian Mariappa came in, it’s been going even better. International football is about tactical communication and that much we knew he would give, especially from the back.
“The Boyz are trying their best, and playing international football is about how sound you are defensively.”
Jamaica, who extended their run of failing to keep a clean sheet to 13 matches, will tackle the tournament organisers Qatar on Friday.
JAMAICA: Knight – Thomas (Campbell, 62), Mariappa, King, M.Howell (Dyer, 55) – Chong (Reid, 54), R.Howell (Harvey, 76), McCarthy, Evans – Phillips (Christain, 81), Fletcher (Murray, 81). Subs: Edwards, Foster, Pennycooke, Webster, Simpson, Bygrave.
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