File Photo: Kemar Lawrence scored a beautiful free kick against Mexico to lead Jamaica to a 1-0 win over defending champions Mexico in the CONCACAF Gold Cup semifinals on Sunday. Jamaica will face the USA in the final on Wednesday night.
A peach of a free kick from Kemar Lawrence and a string of fine saves from Andre Blake guided Jamaica to a 1-0 upset win over defending champions Mexico in the CONCACAF Gold Cup semifinals Sunday night.
Battling against all the odds, the unfancied Jamaicans putting in a stellar defensive performance while showing much more attacking intent than in the group stage encounter, where the teams played out a dour 0-0 draw.
While Mexico bossed the opening exchanges it was Jamaica who got the first short on target when Owayne Gordon was released down the right flank by Alvas Powell. Gordon fired a shot to the near post but Mexican shot stopper Jesus Corona, was equal to the task.
Mexico must have been wondering how they hadn’t taken the lead in the 12th minute but a fantastic double save from Blake was in keeping with the types of display the Jamaican shot stopper has shown all tournament. The first save was especially brilliant as Blake had to adjust his body and save with his feet after the ball deflected off his defender Jerome Taylor.
Blake pulled off another blinder in the 25th minute, this time denying Torres who had a free header from eight yards out after he had been picked out by a Hernandez cross from the right side. The striker found himself in between Taylor and Damion Lowe, but headed straight at Blake who reacted smartly to make the save.
Jamaica tried to play the ball through the midfield, something that was missing from the first encounter, but was guilty of giving the ball away cheaply, putting unnecessary pressure on themselves.
Taylor did test Corona seven minutes before the half time break, when his fierce free kick from 35 yards out had to be turned around the post for a corner kick.
That is as close as either team would come for the rest of the half as the game remained scoreless at the break.
Theodore Whitmore had promised in the pre-match press conference that it would be a totally different approach by his team and he kept his promise, bringing in the attacking Ricardo Morris for quarter final hero Shaun Francis only eight minutes after the restart.
Morris should have repaid the faith of his coach with his first touch of the game but his side footed effort from inside the box lacked the power to beat Corona.
The overlapping Alvas Powell tried his luck from distance in the 60th minute but his shot was always rising.
Shortly after, Blake was called upon again, blocking a rasping drive from a free kick that went through the wall. He had little time to see the ball and even less time to react, but Blake showed strong wrists to block the ball to safety.
The Jamaicans put on a better display in the second half than they did in the first, possessing the ball better and showing more attacking intent. Never did they wilt or go into their shell, like they had done in previous games in the tournament. They played with belief, intent and purpose, fighting valiantly against the defending champions.
Defender Damion Lowe was left holding his head and looking up at the sky after Corona dived to his right to palm away a header that was destined for the bottom corner of the net from a beautifully flighted Owayne Gordon free kick.
The two teams continued to fight for that elusive goal as the minutes ticked away and penalties loomed. Lopez came close for Mexico, but his downward header went straight to Blake in the centre of the goal. It was another free header, but this time with a higher degree of difficulty.
Then with two minutes left in regulation time, Lawrence sealed the win for Jamaica. Substitute Michael Binns seemed to have been selected from a host of players to take the free kick he had won after being brought down on the edge of the ‘D’. But after the referee blew the whistle for the kick to be taken Lawrence intervened. He spotted the ball for himself before nonchalantly curling the ball around the wall and into the roof of the net. His celebration was even more “cool” than his free kick.
Jamaica had to see out three minutes of extra time before the entire squad huddled in the centre of the pitch to celebrate at the sound of the final whistle.
An overwhelmed Whitmore was a happy man after the match.
"David slew Goliath, that's the best way to put it. It's overwhelming, words cant explain. I think the guys we hungry, they needed it more then the Mexicans and we did what we have to do. The MLS has done a lot four our football back in Jamaica, the experience, the exposure these players get in the MLS when they come back, what they bring back to the country it's a plus. This is only the stage for greater things to come, we still have a lot of work to do. We don't want to get carried away, we don't want to get over confident despite what we have achieved over the last couple of days, We just want to remain focused and stick to the job at hand."
"In 2015 we lost the Gold Cup (final) to Mexico, we don;t want history to repeat itself by being at two finals and being runner-up so we are aware of the situation, the position and we are aiming for the gold."
Jamaica will now face hosts the USA in Wednesday’s final in what will be another grudge match as the Boyz from the Caribbean were responsible for ending the hopes of the Bruce Arena coached team in the semifinals of the last tournament.