Phillips’ goals lead Jamaica to victory in CONCACAF Gold Cup

June 11th, 2011

Demar Phillips’ two goals powered Jamaica past Guatemala, then Honduras rolled over Grenada 7-1 in Group B action at FIU Stadium.

Aside from a 17-month stint in the English Premier League — a time in which he spent all but two games on the bench — Demar Phillips’ career has been spent largely off soccer’s grandest stage.

But like his surprising Jamaican team as a whole, perhaps that’s beginning to change.

Phillips, who had just five goals in 41 national team appearances entering the 2011 Gold Cup, now has three in his past two, including both of the Reggae Boyz’s goals in their 2-0 domination of Guatemala on Friday night at FIU Stadium.

“Everybody played a part [Friday],” said Phillips, who struck in the 65th and 78th minutes. “It’s a team sport, and if our strikers weren’t the best [Friday], anybody can go and pick up what they left. I think we can score all around the pitch. It’s not just me.”

In the night’s second game, Carlo Costly scored three times and Jerry Bengtston added two goals, moving Honduras (1-0-1) into sole possession of second place in Group B behind Jamaica with a 7-1 victory over Grenada.

Walter Martinez and Alfredo Mejia also found the back of the net for Honduras, which can clinch a quarterfinal berth with a tie against Jamaica on Monday in New York. A victory would give the 2010 World Cup participants the outright group championship.

Grenada (0-2-0) led briefly when Clive Murray put home a cross from Delroy Facey in the 19th minute, giving his team its first goal in Gold Cup history.

Meanwhile, if Phillips keeps scoring like this, Jamaica could emerge as a dark-horse threat not just to win Group B, but to compete with CONCACAF powers Mexico and the United States for the whole thing.

Step 1 was emerging from the group stage for the first time since 2005, and Jamaica did just that with a game still to spare. On the heels of Monday’s 4-0 throttling of Grenada, Jamaica (2-0-0, six points) kept the sheet clean for a second outing in a row.

Keeper Donovan Ricketts was barely tested, as Guatemala (0-1-1, one point) managed just one shot on goal.

And to be truthful, little aside from Phillips’ fireworks was pretty Friday.

The teams combined for six bookings, including two yellows by Cristian Noriega, the second of which left Guatemala down a man for the game’s final 20 minutes.

The ugliness began early.

Jamaica lost starting defender Dicoy Williams in the game’s eighth minute with what appeared to be a lower-leg injury, forcing coach Theodore Whitmore to use one of his substitutions before his team barely broke a sweat.

Adrian Reid replaced Williams, a starter for Toronto FC of MLS.

That was just about it for the excitement early, as neither team managed a credible first-half scoring threat.

The closest either squad got to a shot on goal was in the 43rd minute, when Guatemala’s Carlos Ruiz unleashed a straight-on rocket from 30 yards, but the effort sailed wide right.

But Jamaica, the faster, longer team, began asserting itself right out of the intermission.

And Luton Shelton was the ignition switch. The 25-year-old attacker took a feed at midfield, split three Guatemalan defenders and directed a trick left-footed shot on goal, which necessitated a sprawling stop by keeper Ricardo Jerez.

Finally, in the 65th minute, Jamaica’s speed was too much. Keammar Daley found a streaking Phillips on the left side, setting up a clever left-footed finish inside the far post.

“It was a good pass from my teammate,” Phillips said. “It caught the other team flat-footed.”

Guatemala, meanwhile, unraveled. Five minutes after Phillips’ first goal, Noriega was hit with his second yellow, effectively ending the contest.

It became official in the 78th minute when Phillips struck again.

He found himself unchecked outside the goal box and one-timed a feed from Dane Richards, who was darting down the end line.


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