Reggae Boyz complete CNL campaign with unbeaten record to set up mouthwatering tie with Canada or Costa Rica
Jamaica ended Haiti’s impressive unbeaten CONCACAF Nations League (CNL) run with a hard-fought 3-2 success at the Hasely Crawford Stadium in Trinidad & Tobago last night.
The Reggae Boyz, whose second string thumped Grenada 4-1 on Thursday, bounced back from conceding early with goals from strikers Demarai Gray, Shamar Nicholson and Leon Bailey.
Resilient Haiti reduced the deficit on 87 minutes, courtesy of Frantzdy Pierrot’s second strike, to set up a thrilling finale in Port of Spain. Yet Jamaica’s near neighbours failed to snatch the all-important equaliser, which meant that they surprisingly suffered relegation from Group B League A alongside Eastern Caribbean minnows Grenada.
In stark contrast head coach Heimir Hallgrimsson takes his troops to tackle either Canada or Costa Rica in next month’s quarter-final showdown.
The Boyz made a slow start, but Di’Shon Bernard should have done better with their first chance. Shotstopper Johny Placide turned the centre back’s effort around the post following Bailey’s telling corner on eight minutes.
Haiti, desperately seeking maximum points to be in with a shot of a quarter-final berth, were quick off the blocks — just like September’s 2-2 stalemate in Kingston when they were 2-0 ahead after quarter of an hour.
It seemed to be déjà vu for these teams. Pierrot headed Fafa Picault’s cross past Andre Blake at his near left post for a 15th-minute breakthrough.
The Reggae Boyz rallied back to square the score three minutes later. Quick-thinking Gray latching onto a poor attempted clearance, to fire low from the edge of the area past stunned Placide.
It became an even more cagey opening half, with Jamaica lacking their usual fluidity as their physically-strong opponents snuffed out any danger and disrupted their tactics.
After the turnaround Hallgrimsson introduced Nicholson for largely ineffective teenage striker Dujuan Richards, who wasn’t named in the original 23-player squad and finished as an unnamed substitute against Grenada’s Spice Boyz.
The tie sprung to much-needed life after the interval with some rare goalmouth action.
Bernard squandered another simple chance, failing to convert Gray’s cross from just three yards. Michail Antonio’s low curling effort from the edge of the area then whizzed wide of the target.
At the other end of the pitch Jamaica were given a wake-up call when Mechack Jerome’s free-kick was denied by the woodwork.
This scare jolted the Boyz, which saw them surge forward. Dexter Lembikisa hit the post from a corner, then Placide parried Nicholson’s excellent effort.
But Nicholson made no mistake with his next opportunity, finding the back of the net on 57 minutes to maintain his accolade of being Jamaica’s all-time top scorer in the CNL with his sixth goal in the competition. He polished off Antonio’s cross from close range by sneaking the ball past Placide for a 2-1 lead.
Bustling Bailey extended their lead on 66 minutes, cleverly seizing his chance by racing past the defence to beat the offside trap and finish off Daniel Johnson’s free-kick with aplomb.
Haiti pushed forward and looked dangerous, with the Boyz being pulled apart at times. It came as no surprise when Pierrot pulled back a goal with a well-placed header from a corner with only three minutes remaining.
Jamaica saw out the match to end Haiti’s impressive CNL unbeaten run of a dozen games to send the sides in different directions.
The Boyz are joined by Honduras in the quarter-final stage. Honduras will face either Mexico or the United States next month, after finishing runner-up to Jamaica following their 4-0 triumph over visitors Cuba at the Estadio Nacional Chelato Ucles in Tegucigalpa.
Suriname collected their sole victory in this season’s competition, overpowering Grenada 4-0 inside the Dr. Ir. Franklin Essed Stadion in Paramaribo.
Hallgrimsson, who called up Iceland-based Richard King along with Cavalier’s Kyle Ming and Harbour View FC’s Jashaun Anglin, for the Haiti match, is keen to maintain Jamaica’s momentum in order to qualify for next year’s Copa America.
With the 2026 FIFA World Cup final his ultimate goal, he declared: “In order to improve our playing style we have to work with the same players. We have found a core of players that we think we can continue working with. and then we can develop a playing style.
“As a national team we can improve [in] a lot of areas, and we are closer to what the best national teams are doing.”
CONCACAF NATIONS LEAGUE A GROUP B | Jamaica 10pts (+5 goal difference), Honduras 7pts (+7), Suriname 5pts (+3), Cuba 5pts (-3), Haiti 3pts (-1), Grenada 1pt (-11)
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