Precious point for Reggae Boyz
MEXICO CITY, Mexico (CMC):
Outstanding goal-keeping from Donovan Ricketts and robust defending helped Jamaica to neutralise Mexico's raids and forced a 0-0 draw in their opening game Wednesday night in final round of qualifying for the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil.
The improving Reggae Boyz, dominated by foreign-based players, frustrated the Mexicans who failed to produce enough quality opportunities to beat an unexpectedly impressive Jamaican defence at the Azteca Stadium.
The drawn game was one of Jamaica's most impressive results in their footballing history on the strength of Ricketts' performance and a well-implemented game plan that kept El Tri largely at bay.
The Caribbean powerhouse squandered an early golden opportunity in the eighth minute.
Garath McCleary delivered a cross from the right that his Reading teammate Jobi McAnuff turned into a header that hit the post and rebounded neatly back to his feet.
However, the midfielder failed to exploit a clear cut chance by taking a shot that Mexico goalkeeper Jose de Jesus Corona raced back across the goalmouth to save.
Just before the half-hour mark, Jamaica's Rodolph Austin intercepted a poor throw-in and sprinted into the left side of the Mexican box.
The Leeds United midfielder took a left-footed shot that Corona tipped over the crossbar for a corner kick.
The Reggae Boyz spent much of the first half successfully repelling the CONCACAF champions as they relentlessly attacked.
AFFECTED BY THIN AIR
Jamaica created a number of opportunities on counter-attacks, but the thin air at Estadio Azteca clearly affected them and restricted speedy onslaughts.
The second half featured more frustration for the Mexicans who struggled consistently to outpace Jamaica's stout defence.
The visitors pressed for an opener with McAnuff who was involved in many of the advances but failing to compensate for his mistake of not converting an early opportunity.
Jamaica could have won the game in the 68th minute off a miscue from Andres Guardado.
Ryan Johnson gained possession of the ball in the middle of the field and easily beat defender Carlos Salcido, before his weak shot rolled harmlessly into the waiting hands of Corona.
Jamaican custodian Ricketts was the most impressive player on the pitch with an incredible performance that deprived the Mexicans from seizing the advantage.
The Portland Timbers keeper flew around the goal line and came up with several spectacular saves, including his highlight of the night, keeping a point-blank shot from Javier Hernandez Balcazar out of the net.
In other matches in the final CONCACAF qualifying Wednesday night visiting Costa Rica and Panama played to a thrilling 2-2 draw and Honduras, playing at home, scored a 2-1 victory over the United States.
The next round of CONCACAF World Cup Qualifiers takes place on March 22.
Mexico will travel to play Honduras, and Jamaica will return home to take on Panama.