Girlz fall 2-1 to Costa Rica
Gordon Williams, Sunday Gleaner Writer
ILLINOIS, United States:
Jamaica's 2015 World Cup qualification hopes suffered a cruel body blow yesterday when a "soft" penalty and late strike gave Costa Rica a 2-1 win in the CONCACAF Women's Championship at Toyota Park here.
The loss kept the Reggae Girlz on three points from two games as the Ticas took charge of Group B with six points and a game to play against Martinique, which Jamaica crushed on Thursday.
However, the Reggae Girlz are not yet knocked out. Mexico were well on their way to beat group underdogs, Martinique, in the second game of yesterday's scheduled double-header at press time, but Jamaica could still advance to the semi-finals with a win against El Tri on Tuesday in Washington, DC.
"There's no holding back against Mexico," said Jamaica's head coach Merron Gordon after the game. "Our chance is as good as Mexico's."
Still, yesterday's setback was hard for the Reggae Girlz to stomach, especially after Raquel Rodriquez Cedeno tumbled following a challenge from Jamaica's Nicole Campbell-Green. Captain Shirley Cruz slotted home the penalty to give Costa Rica a 76th-minute lead.
"The penalty was soft, controversial," said Gordon.
It didn't stop Jamaica's brave show against a quality Costa Rican team.
"Yes the loss was disappointing," Gordon said, "but the Girlz fought hard. They are still in high spirits."
That resilience showed almost immediately after the first setback. Shakira Duncan attacked down the right flank and her 77th minute attempted cross eluded goalkeeper Dinnia Diaz for Jamaica's equaliser. Jamaica eventually succumbed to an 86th-minute strike by Raquel Rodriquez Cedeno.
After the game, Costa Rica's coach Avedissian Gabaret, whose team faces Martinique Tuesday, appeared to favour Jamaica's chances to claim the second Group B spot and a semi-final berth.
"Jamaica can do a lot of damage to Mexico," Gabaret said.
Overcast skies and chilling sub-50 degree temperatures marked yesterday's kick-off, but didn't hurt Jamaica. The match was evenly contested early, with both teams looking tactically organised and compact. Jamaica seemed intent on soaking up pressure and retaliating with speed and aggression.
"The approach was to contain Costa Rica and then hit them on the counter," said Gordon.
Still, Costa Rica came close to scoring. Wendy Acosta slammed a shot on to the post late in the first half. It wasn't the only time Costa Rica would hit the woodwork.
The game's pace and physicality gradually escalated and Campbell-Green earned the first caution in the 57th minute. Jamaicans Christina Murray and Donna-Kay Henry also picked up yellow cards in the second half.
But just as the match appeared heading for a draw, Jamaica failed to shut down an attack inside the box. Carolina Venegas laid off a pass for Cedeno whose low shot beat goalkeeper Nicole McClure to the far corner.