Jamaica's Deon Burton (right), Christopher Dawes (left) and Andy Williams watch the ball evade Trinidad and Tobago goalkeeper Shaka Hislop during World Cup qualifier action at the National Stadium yesterday. Jamaica won 1-0. - Rudolph Brown
By Melton Williams,
JAMAICA'S Reggae Boyz yesterday had a dream start in their quest to qualify for the 2002 World Cup in Japan and South Korea when they clipped Caribbean rivals Trinidad and Tobago 1-0 in front of a full house at the National Stadium.
Right back Tyrone Marshall converted the only goal of the match to silence the calypso men on a very hot day which marked the beginning of the final round (the group of six qualifiers in CONCACAF).
But the Reggae Boyz had to do it the hard way and before Marshall hit the winner from 23 yards out, the team which lost Stephen Malcolm, who died on January 28 in a car crash, star player Onandi Lowe, banned by FIFA, and frontline goalkeepers Aaron Lawrence and Donovan Ricketts (through injuries), received another big blow when left back Ricardo Gardner was pulled out with a head injury in the eighth minute.
He was replaced by new boy Jamie Lawrence, one of three players to debut for Jamaica yesterday. The others were goalkeeper Leon Gordon and striker Barry Hayles of English team Fulham.
That scenario happened as Gardner presented Jamaica with its first scoring opportunity. The England-based player was set up by an lofted ball from midfielder Theodore Whitmore inside the box which he headed inches wide under pressure and immediately crashed to the turf from a challenge from a defender. Reports are that Gardner was knocked out for several seconds.
Trinidad and Tobago certainly took note of the Reggae Boyz' intentions. In the 11th minute, a defensive mix-up let through Stern John, he played back to Manchester United striker Dwight Yorke on the edge of the 18-yard box and he drilled a firm shot which missed the far post by inches.
Eight minutes after that incident, Marshall delivered the goods. Marshall, who plays in the US for Miami Fusion, got the better in a scramble for the ball on the left flank and drilled a powerhouse shot which curled away from a motionless goalkeeper Shaka Hislop and crashed into the goal.
Marshall's celebration was cut short as he was carded by referee Carlo Alberto Batres for running off the pitch to celebrate.
Immediately after Jamaica had taken the lead, Angus Eve almost hit back. Eve was set up by midfield general Russell Latapy in the 18-yard box but his shot was cleared.
The visitors had their easiest chance in the 34th minute when a Ronnie Mauge header from a free kick was cleared off the goal line by Marshall.
The Trinidadians took the fight to the Reggae Boyz and they wilted under the pressure, making two defensive errors which almost cost them. Firstly, a mix-up between new boy Gordon and Ian Goodison in the 37th minute had to be hastily cleared. Then, a few minutes later, Gordon had to quickly correct a mistake after he dropped the ball at the feet of John.
The half ended 1-0.
On the resumption, the Reggae Boyz looked a bit jaded from the heat as Trinidad and Tobago took control and mounted numerous raids into the Jamaicans' half.
Yorke, for most of the second half was kept quiet by Goodison, who stuck to him like glue and he was limited to only four shots at goal.
The victory was described as a "wonder win" by Jamaica's technical director, Clovis de Oliveira.
"Wonderful, wonderful ... I talked to Goodison about his job one month ago and I said don't tell anybody else about our strategy. I asked him, you have to take care of Yorke, can you do that? He said coach, listen to me, I can and he went out and did a good job."
De Oliveira admitted he was nervous, especially when Gardner had to be taken off.
"The departure of Gardner was a big blow. I tried to make one move, bringing Marshall from the left side and put Jamie Lawrence there because of his experience, even though I have a right fullback on the bench. I was trying to put pressure on them and it worked very nice. And they went and scored the goal," said de Oliveira.
He described his opponents as "very, very powerful team and I am sure that they will be on of the teams that will be up there to try and get a spot to qualify."
Trinidad and Tobago's coach, Ian Porterfield, said he was disappointed.
"Obviously, I am very disappointed. We lost the game. I thought we did enough to have a better result. All credit to Jamaica, they fire from all cylinders and they got the result of the three points.
"We got more closer into the box and got the ball forward a lot. A lot of tension was out there but I think we didn't pressure then enough. Obviously we are disappointed that we didn't get something out of the game," he concluded.
Porter said Goodison made the difference.
"He marked Yorke very well. All credit to Goodison but we were unlucky.
Football is a funny game, you guys strike the ball and it goes in. Dwight Yorke had a good effort on goal in the first half and it went just wide, Stern John shot went over the bar ... these things happen in football. But we are certainly not down. We knew it was going to be hard here today," he said.