The history making Under 20 Reggae Girls were yesterday eliminated from the Concacaf Women’s Under 20 Championship in the Dominican Republic.
This after going down 2-1 in a heated quarterfinal battle against the home team Dominican Republic at the Estadio Panamericano in San Cristobal.
The home team brought out the crowd, and along with them the trumpets, drums, horns and school children in drives, which gave them the perfect push in the kick off, as they were running at the Jamaicans and were making some good passes in the process.
However in the 12th minute against the run of play Jamaica’s Captain and the team’s leading goal scorer at this tournament Jody Brown latched on to a long range pass from Lauren Reid, shrugged off one marker and turn goal wards. She later beat one defender and in the ensuing build up her effort was blocked by the Dominican goal keeper Nayelis Lopez who saved the day.
The ball bubbled in the path of Chantelle Parker who played it off to team mate Marlee Fray , but by this time the home team had recovered defensively to deny the Jamaicans yet again.
Nineteen minutes into the contest Dominican Republic forward and captain Olyssa Oviedo broke free just outside the Jamaican 18 yard box, but three members of Jamaica’s back four kept her at bay, with a good clearance coming from right back Jordyn Bartholomew.
Following the mandatory water break, both teams began running at each other and the home side made some good in roads, taking the fight to the Reggae Girls.
The home team later won their first corner in the 32nd minute, and the corner kick came sailing in the box, but was quickly headed away by an alert Reggae Girl defender Peyton Mcnamara. The danger was not fully alleviated and the clearance landed just in-front of Alexa Pacheo who fired the ball towards goal, however it was carefully read and pushed away by Ella Dennis.
The home team won a second corner off the play but was immediately, but was also kept at bay with a goal kick for Jamaica.
But two minutes later, the home side went in front, when a ball from Marianelys Perez was played over into Jamaica’s box and landed in the path of an un-marked Kristina Garcia. Garcia dribbled forward near the left post, wasted no time and pushed it past Ella Dennis in goal to give the Dominican Republic the lead in minute 35.
With the fans now in a frenzy, Jamaica’s Reggae Girls managed to silence them momentarily when they won a corner. The ball floated sweetly in the breeze and landed just in front of an advancing Brown who found the back of the net by just taking the ball down on her chest to and let in bounce in to make it score one all in the 37th minute. The goal brought Brown’s tally of goal to nine at the this stage of the game.
On the resumption the Jamaicans came out of the blocks looking more purposeful, and in the 54th minute a good counter-attack saw Parker making a decent dribble near the top of the home team’s 18 yard box. With the Jamaicans searching for the go ahead goal, the ball was played to Brown who saw Marlee Fray in a good position to score with the just the goal keeper to beat, she fired it over the cross bar.
With time running out the Jamaican coaching staff introduced Sydoney Clarke to spice up the operations and Fray was rested. Clarke’s effect was felt immediately as she brought back some stability to the midfield for Jamaica. She sent Brown running on two occasions’ goal wards, but the defense of the home team shut down the little player from Lime Hall in St Ann whose efforts after efforts were blocked. At this stage the legs were growing weary for both teams but the host were hustling more.
Then in the 73rd minute Captain Oviedo sent her team mate Mia Asenjo running down the right hand side and with the Jamaican defense backing off and allowing her room to come forward, she managed to get a shot off which Dennis read but only got a finger to it, 2-1 Dominican Republic. The noise at the Estadio Panamericano grew louder shortly after,
With Jamaican fighting back Clarke rode her luck and Jaden Roberts gave her a good pass on the left, just outside the Dominican Republic’s 18 yard box. Her attempt to blast it over in the goal area never materialized, as the ball crashed in the face of the Dominican Republic defender Garbiella Marte which sent Marte to the ground bursting her nose in the process. A concussion protocol was quickly observed by referee Katia Garcia and Marta was quickly taken out.
With time running out and the referee glancing at her watch, Jamaica pushed back the home side in their half, and Reggae girl midfielder Neville Gayle Able with a last ditch effort blasted a powerful shot which was neatly taken down by the opponent’s goal keeper.
Then a minute later the final whistle was sounded which sent the Dominican Republic players running in all directions coupled with screaming and hugs. The cheering fans broke into a frenzy as the host booked a spot in the semi-final where they will face five times Champions USA on Friday.
Head coach Xavier Gilbert assessed the loss.
In the meantime Vice Captain Marlee Fray was gracious in defeat.
The Reggae Girls Sponsorship support for this mission was made possible by : The Bob Marley Foundation, The Reggae Girls Foundation, Wysinco, Caribbean Airlines, Supreme Ventures, Jamaica National, Umbro and Digicel.
The local delegation which with team manager Gene Nelson and Xavier Gilbert are expected to return to the island this evening.