Jamaica’s Under 20 Reggae Girls created history on Ash Wednesday at the Estadio Panamericano in San Cristobal, Dominican Republic, after ripping Canada apart in a convincing 3-1 win over the North American Giants at the Concacaf Women’s Under 20 Championship under slightly overcast conditions.
The win was the first ever for Jamaica over Canada at any level in the National Women’s programme, and it was the first time ever that Jamaica was topping a Concacaf group at any women’s age group level.
One goal each from strikers Jody Brown and Marlee Fray and another from attacking midfielder Lacy Murray gave the Jamaican’s their first win over Canada at this level and helped them top Group E’ on 7 points to set up a meeting with Caribbean neighbors Bermuda on Saturday in the second round.
(From left) Jody Brown, Marlee Fray and Chantelle Parker ahead of Jamaica’s match up against Canada.
The victory had history etched on it also for the fact that the Reggae Girls were for the first time finishing on top of a group at this level which incidentally includes one of the big three in Concacaf, in this case Canada.
In the opening minutes the Maple Leaf quickly seized the initiative with good clean crisp passing as the Jamaicans started slowly and the Reggae Girls took at least a good 10 minutes to get going. However with Canada pressing high and having greater ball possession, Jamaica got a decent break through a counter attack, when forward Chantell Parker picked up a pass in midfield and darted down the right hand side, and her effort at goal was blocked by Canadian defender Emma Reagan who was back tracking and reading her every move.
In the ensuing corner a header by an active Parker landed on the boot of Neville Gayle Able whose one time effort on the volley sprayed wide, for a goal kick for Canada.
From left (Peyton Mcnamara, Alexia Spencer, Jaden Roberts and Jordyn Bortholomew)
Canada’s forward Kaila Novak got the clearest chance of the game in the 12th minute, when defender Gabielle Gayle in a half-hearted challenge was beaten and Novak got inside the box with the Jamaican goal keeper Ella Dennis alone to beat and fired it over the bar, as the Reggae girls escaped by the skin of their teeth.
The Jamaican Head coach Xavier Gilbert could be heard shouting on top of his voice for the girls to keep the formation and not be caught out of position, and Technical Advisor Hubert Busby was not to far behind in vocal support .
The Reggae girls got the go ahead goal in the 20th minute, when striker Jody Brown picked up a ball from Sydoney Clarke, and with a burst of speed the diminutive player from Lime Hall in St Ann, broke free, beat one advancing player and with one Canadian defender running astride and the goal keeper of Canada Anna Karpenko reading the play, Brown wasted no time and blasted it pass her to make it one nil for Jamaica.
Then with time running out in the first half, Canada got a free kick just outside Jamaica’s 18 yard box, and Novak who again stepped up saw her effort blocked by the Jamaican defense and later cleared by Malia Atkins whose defensive discipline was evident.
Then a long pass from Gayle later sent Parker running free in an effort to get one more for Jamaica, but it was not to be as Canada who had earlier threw most of their players up front for the free kick recovered well to deny the Jamaicans yet again.
At the start of the second half, striker Marlee Fray who sat out the first half was now introduced in place of Sydoney Clarke.
Canada was resolute and became more determined, forcing the Jamaicans back in their own half, with shots coming at the Jamaican goal in droves, the one that came the closest was the diving header from Caitlin Shaw after a corner in the 56th minute which was easily handled by Dennis whose confidence increased with every minute.
The Canadians penetrated the Jamaican defense time and time again, but came up empty handed as the Jamaican back four of Gayle, Jaden Roberts, Lauren Reid and Malia Atkins kept the door shot for the most part, and whatever shot eventually came through was easily calmed by a well alert Dennis in goal.
In minute 68 the momentum of the Canadians were broken when Dennis went down in goal. During the medical treatment the coaching staff gave the Reggae girls a quick pep talk, which later paid dividend.
This as the buildup that followed Brown’s penetration at the top of the Canadian box yielded success, when she made a wide pass on the left to an advancing and hardworking Parker who dribbled some 5 yards and rescued the ball from going out, before cutting inside to beat a defender and played it in the path of Murray.
Murray who had earlier scored in this tournament , was hungry for more goals, and she fired past the Canadian custodian Anna Karpenko with a one time left footed effort in the 80th minute, to make it 2-nil for Jamaica, as pandemonium set in among the handful of cheering Jamaican fans who had journeyed from around the world to support the girls.
A section of the spectators supporting Canada who went flat after the Reggae Girls knocked the wind out of their sails.
The writing was now on the wall and Canada’s dream run was slowly turning into a nightmare and it was not in the dark, but in bright sunshine, and their spectators who were vocal earlier were now reduced to silence.
Then the tricky and skillful Gayle who had been one of the playmakers all afternoon, floated a neat chip to Atkins, who played it off to Fray. However with nowhere to turn among a host of Canadian defenders Fray looking for passing options laid it off neatly to an open Brown who darted down the left of the Canadian box with the ball and in a quick give and go played it back to Fray who slotted home to make it 3-nil for the Reggae Girls in the 89th minute.
But just before the Referee Melissa Pastrana blew the final whistle, Canada later pulled one back in time added on, when Atkins clearance Ricochet off an advancing Tanya Boychuck of Canada and flew over the head of Dennis who was on her line but was caught out of position.
Speaking with Irie Fm Sports after the game Head Coach Xavier Gilbert, said, “ I am so proud of these girls, their work rate against a tough opponent has left me almost lost for words, just to how they carefully followed instructions from the coaching staff and their courage to battle in fierce game speaks volume of the commitment from all them”.
Nina Reid mother of Lauren Reid, stated “ the Girls were amazing today against Canada, just their sheer hard work and never say die attitude, and on behalf of all the parents here in the Dominican Republic, I really want to say I am proud of the kids.” Meanwhile another parent Clive Scarlett added, “Our athleticism won us the game today and we finished our chances and going forward I see these girls making it into the semi-finals.
The Jamaicans will have two days off before getting back into action on Saturday in the round of 16.