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Historic Nations League Medal for Jamaica

Author: Neil-Monticelli Harley-Rüdd

Dexter Lembikisa’s thunderbolt fires Reggae Boyz to hard-fought success over Panama

Dexter Lembikisa’s wonderstruck goal helped to seal Jamaica’s best-ever CONCACAF Nations League showing, with a 1-0 win against Panama last night (24 March).

Although the depleted Reggae Boyz welcomed back strikers Demarai Gray and Shamar Nicholson from suspension, it was 20-year-old Lembikisa who stole the show inside the AT&T Stadium in Dallas with his spectacular 25-yard strike marking his maiden international goal with aplomb.

Jamaica returned to the same pitch where they had so cruelly lost to the US, but bounced back with a spirited display and managed to snuff out any real dangers from Panama in a tense encounter.


The contest between losing semi-finalists was never going to reach heady heights as both teams were clearly disheartened.

The Boyz had suffered the ignominy of conceding a goal with the last kick of the game to the US then run out of steam during extra time, while Panama were previously pulled apart 3-0 by Mexico.

Jamaica seized early control following two early scares in the opening ten minutes, when Aníbal Godoy and Jiovany Ramos both put their efforts to the left of the gaping goalmouth.

Nicholson fluffed his chances to break the deadlock on 19 minutes. He was unable to convert Michael Hector’s pass from close range, shotstopper Orlando Mosquera parried the ball only for his follow-up to be blocked on the line. From the resulting corner Hector and Damion Lowe tried their luck to no avail, as Jamaica applied the pressure on Panama.

Mosquera needed to be sharp again on the half-hour mark, and prevented Demarai Gray’s long-range effort from heading into the bottom left corner.

Yet the keeper could do nothing about Lembikisa’s ferocious left-footed drive outside the box, which simply soared into the top left corner on 41 minutes. This was the explosive shot that lit up a tie that had previously lacked fireworks from any players.

The Wolverhampton Wanderers ace, currently on loan with Scottish outfit Hearts, brilliantly hauled in Hector’s pass and made a cut to his left before unleashing his unstoppable strike.


Andre Blake, who was being theatrical between the sticks virtually every time he touched the ball, needed to be alert to prevent Jose Rodriguez from snatching an equaliser on the brink of half-time.

After the turnaround the teams were involved in a dreary midfield battle. The lively Rodriguez tried his luck from long range, just before an audacious chip from Damion Lowe hit the crossbar on the hour-mark.

Panama constantly made a desperate bid to level matters. Blake stopped another Rodriguez effort and must have breathed a sigh of relief when Andres Andre and then Jose Fajardo should have hit the target with their respective close range headers.

Four Panama substitutes changed the complex of the match, with the Boyz stifled and unable to create any clear cut chances.

At the other end of the pitch Panama fluffed a late rally of goal scoring opportunities. Cecilio Waterman and Ismael Diaz steered their shots wide in the dying minutes, with Abdiel Ayarza and Diaz also guilty of missing the target during stoppage time.

It was a far from convincing victory for head coach Heimir Hallgrimsson’s troops, who had last defeated Panama in the 2019 Gold Cup quarter-finals.

Yet Jamaica’s fourth triumph over Panama ended up being an historic one, as they became the first Caribbean side to finish on the Nations League Finals podium alongside champions US who defeated Mexico 2–0.

Jamaica will next turn their attention to what should be straightforward FIFA World Cup qualifiers in early June, kicking off with the visit of the Dominican Republic before travelling to the tiny island of Dominica. The Boyz aim to top Group E, which includes minnows Guadeloupe, to make progress.

JAMAICA |  Blake – Latibeaudiere, Hector, Bernard – Leigh (T.Gray, 90), D.Lowe (King, 89), Palmer (Anderson, 81), Lembikisa – D.Gray (Cephas, 81), Nicholson, Decordova-Reid Subs: Dixon, Johnson, Davis, Williams, J.Lowe, Waite


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