Reggae Boyz in do-or-die clash - After stunning loss to French Guiana in CFU opener
NORTH SOUND, Antigua (CMC):
Jamaica's Reggae Boyz suffered a massive blow to their title defence when they were stunned by French Guiana in their opening match of the CFU Caribbean Cup Finals on Saturday night.
Gary Pigree and Rudy Evans scored on either side of half-time to cancel out Tramaine Stewart's first-half strike that had left the game even at the Vivian Richards Stadium.
In the other Group B contest, Frederic Piquionne's goal proved the difference as French side Martinique edged Cuba 1-0 at the same venue.
Jamaica's defeat changed the entire outlook for the group as they will now need to beat Martinique today to remain in contention for a final-four spot and qualification for the CONCACAF Gold Cup.
Martinique and French Guiana sit on top of the group standings with three points each.
Pigree opened the scoring for the French, tucking in his eighth Caribbean Cup goal to put Jamaica on the back foot.
Jean-Claude Darcheville, the former Glasgow Rangers and Nottingham Forest player, produced a pacy run to set up Pigree, who benefitted from goalkeeper Dwayne Miller's fumble to score in the 19th minute.
Jamaica, however, wasted very little time in pulling level three minutes later. Stewart raced down the right side and into the box and clinically beat custodian Laurent Pecthy for the equaliser.
No hope for Boyz
The scoreline remained even at half-time, but the French side once again conjured up another shock almost immediately after. Again, Darcheville was at the centre of the play, setting up Evans, who made no mistake.
Jamaica were forced to chase the game but though Darren Mattocks and Demar Phillips forced saves out of Pecthy late on, French Guiana stood firm to collect all three points.
In the preceding game, Martinique extended their winning streak in Cup games to seven with a hard-fought victory over Cuba.
Both sides wasted opportunities, but Piquionne got the decider in the 29th minute when the outstanding Kevin Parsemain produced an incisive through ball.
Last night, action reverted to Group A, where the Dominican Republic hunted their second win, this time against Haiti, while Antigua and Barbuda and Trinidad and Tobago locked horns in the feature contest.