Big guns wait for Reggae Boyz following success over Eastern Caribbean minnows
Two late goals in a 4-1 triumph over Grenada at the Kirani James National Stadium last night earned Jamaica a guaranteed CONCACAF Nations League quarter-final berth.
The Reggae Boyz were in control midway through the opening half, courtesy of strikes from Kevon Lambert and Shamar Nicholson. Grenada halved the deficit on the half-hour mark, but it was goals from Demarai Gray and stand-in skipper Bobby Decordova-Reid that sealed the Group B League A points.
With Suriname and Haiti finishing 1-1 and Honduras versus Cuba ending scoreless, table-topping Jamaica booked their progress in the competition and will tackle highly-ranked CONCACAF opposition.
Head coach Heimir Hallgrimsson surprisingly brought in the services of teenage striker Dujuan Richards, who had not been named in the original 23-player squad and finished as an unnamed substitute.
He named a fairly weak starting line-up against the relative minnows of Grenada’s Spice Boyz with the big game against Haiti at the weekend.
However, Jamaica hit cruise control until halfway through the opening 45 minutes to drum up a comfortable two-goal cushion in St. George’s.
The Boyz broke the deadlock on 12 minutes. Greg Leigh’s swinging corner saw Dishon Bernard’s header brilliantly saved by keeper Jason Belfon, only for Lambert to polish off the rebound.
Jamaica doubled their lead 10 minutes later. Nicholson picked up a pass from Romario Williams, then twisted and turned to bamboozle a trio of defenders before picking his spot past Belfon with a thunderous left-footed drive.
Grenada bounced back with aplomb, and were rewarded for their endeavours on 30 minutes. A telling ball into the crowded area, which contained nine Jamaican players, found Trevon Williams. His first attempt was saved by the sprawling Jahmali Waite, yet he made no mistake with the rebound.
This was a wake-up call for the Boyz, with a trio of second-half substitutions made to keep the hosts at bay. And busy shotstopper Belfon came to the rescue with a point-blank save to deny Williams on 58 minutes.
Demarai Gray restored the two-goal cushion, fending off the attention of four defenders before unleashing his shot across the face of goal and into the bottom right corner on 74 minutes.
He squandered a chance five minutes from the final whistle, when he had an opportunity to set up substitute Leon Bailey on the counterattack, but rolled the ball into the arms of Belfon.
Decordova-Reid sealed maximum points with his goal on 87 minutes. His burst of speed left a trio of defenders and he finished off in style when in a one-on-one situation with Belfon.
The victory leaves Jamaica with seven points from their three games to top the standings in League A Group B, with Hallgrimsson expected to bring in his troops for Sunday’s match against Haiti that will be contested in Trinidad & Tobago.
JAMAICA | Waite – Leigh, Bernard, Hector, T.Gray (Lembikisa 45) – D.Gray, Lambert (Johnson 45), Latibeaudiere (Anderson 45), Decordova-Reid – Nicholson (Phillips 82), Williams (Bailey 65). Subs: Blake, Richards, Lowe
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