November 30th, 2010
Defending champions Jamaica, who had threatened strike action against their federation the previous night, took their battle to the field and eased into the semi-final of the Digicel Caribbean Cup, with a 2-0 win over Guadeloupe, in the second match of a double-header at the Riviere Pilote Stadium last night.
Shaun Francis (53rd minute) and Ryan Johnson (90+) scored the goals for the embattled Jamaicans, giving the Reggae Boyz their second victory in as many starts and a clear lead of Group I on six points.
Only the night before, the Jamaicans seemed uncertain to participate as they served the Jamaica Football Federation (JFF) an ultimatum to pay each team member US$1200 per diem for the championship and 80 per cent of the purse earned for placing among the money.
Their president, Captain Horace Burrell, used money from his own coffers to satisfy their request and looked contended as he watched his players secure an important win to cruise into the next round.
Guadeloupe remained on one point, the same as Guyana with whom they had drawn their opening match 1-1. Antigua and Barbuda are second in the group, moving to three points after beating the Guyanese in last night’s opening match.
All the other Group I teams are in with a chance of advancing to the semi-finals, with Jamaica facing Guyana and Guadeloupe tackling Antigua and Barbuda in tomorrow night’s closing fixtures.
Two Jamaican players will miss that game after picking up a second yellow card, captain Shavar Thomas and midfielder Rodolph Austin.
Only two teams from the group will advance to the semi-finals, where they will face the top two from Group H, which has already-qualified Cuba, Grenada, hosts Martinique and Trinidad and Tobago, who have already been eliminated.
The top four teams will advance to the CONCACAF Gold Cup tournament, that will be staged in the United States next year.
Jamaica were the dominant team in the first half and created a number of quality scoring chances.
It set the tone for the Reggae Boyz’s play as they pressed hard at the Guadeloupe team and took control of the game by doing several things well.
With Rodolph Austin marshalling the middle and Richards, especially, wreaking havoc on the right flank while the forwards Luton Shelton and Omar Cummings moved well off the ball, they were able to move the ball smoothly and maintain a high rate of possession, to clearly establish themselves as the better team.
On a number of occasions, after switching play with the ball on the ground, they hit the Guadeloupe defence with long balls over the top.
With Guadeloupe paying close attention to Shelton with quick double and triple-team plays, and Cummings not featuring a lot, Richards emerged the most dangerous attacker and almost scored again when he took a long pass and beat the goalie smartly with a neat flick over his head, but his finish from the flank side of the penalty box was headed away from the goalmouth by a Guadeloupe defender.
Prior to that, Shelton just missed scoring one of two very easy opportunities. As they combined passes to advance into a dangerous area Daley, who had an uncharacteristically bad passing game in the first half, curled a perfect cross from the flank to Shelton. The striker, unmarked at the six-yard box, turned and headed his finish just wide of the target.
Towards the end of the half, Jamaica, who had been winning possession fairly easily by quickly closing Guadeloupe down and taking away the ball, loosened the shackles towards the end of the half and gave their opponents two good looks at goal, which were wasted.
Francis made them pay with a goal at the other end right away, at the 53rd minute.
Ryan Johnson, cooly steered the ball from the top of the box between two defenders to kill off the contest with an injury time goal.
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