Reggae Girlz face steep task after going down 2-0 at National Stadium
Canada placed a high hurdle in Jamaica’s path to the Paris Olympic Games next year following a 2-0 victory over the hosts in the first-leg of their Concacaf qualifier at the National Stadium last night.
The Reggae Girlz now travel to Canada for the second leg next Tuesday with a mountain to climb.
The victory, provided by an 18th-minute strike by Nichelle Prince and another three minutes into second-half stoppage time by Adriana Leon, will have Jamaica needing to score at least two goals in that already-sold-out return match at the BMO Field in Toronto to advance to the Olympic Games, with the away goals rule being a tiebreaker.
The Reggae Girlz home presence was bereft of the huge crowd that coach Lorne Donaldson had beseeched the Jamaicans to provide, with only a few thousand spectators occupying the stands.
The first half was a battle of attrition, mainly in midfield as Canada were contented to sit back early with zonal marking as Jamaica held sway before the goal when Canada ventured more into the Jamaican territory.
Canada, kicking towards the south, attacked mainly down the flanks, especially down the right, where the goal was created.
Ashley Lawrence beat Jamaica’s defender Deneisha Blackwood to the goal line and crossed inside for Prince to get around her marker, former Reggae Girlz captain Konya Plummer, and flashed a header past goalkeeper Rebecca Spencer into the netting at the far post.
Jamaica’s presence in front of goal was minimal during the period, with only Jade Rose’s shot from the edge of the area that went high being the only clear look they got at the woodwork.
Canada, having worked out the Jamaicans, took control of the action at the start of the second stanza and threatened Jamaica’s goal periodically, with forward Leon creating havoc for her markers and presenting opportunities to score.
Two minutes after the resumption, Leon beat Spencer with a shot, which was cleared off the line by Allyson Swaby and from the ensuing scramble, the forward collected a loose ball in the area and crashed a shot into the crossbar.
Leon continued to terrorise the Jamaicans and a long-range shot had Spencer diving to block.
Reggae Girlz coach Donaldson, needing the victory, made several substitutions, which allowed them to gradually match their Canadian counterparts, but they still failed to breach the defence, although venturing into the penalty area several times.
Leon, in one of Canada’s rare treks into the Jamaican territory during the closing stages, wrapped up the match when she scored from a cross from the right that picked her out at the near post.