Marc Stamp, Gleaner Writer
Jamaica, led by a hat-trick by in-form striker Kayla Gray, cruised to a comfortable 5-1 beating of neighbouring Cuba to advance to the final in the Caribbean Football Union Women's Under-20 tournament at Anthony Spaulding Sports Complex yesterday.
Jamaica will meet Trinidad and Tobago in the final, after the twin-island state beat Dominican Republic 2-1.
Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago, by virtue of advancing to the CFU Women's Under-20 final, qualified along with hosts Cayman Islands for the eight-nation CONCACAF Finals next January.
"Coming into the tournament the objective was to qualify for the next stage and we did that," said Xavier Gilbert, head coach of the Jamaica team. "Now we are looking forward to the final against Trinidad and Tobago."
The CFU final will be played tomorrow at the Anthony Spaulding Sports Complex, starting at 6 p.m., before the Dominican Republic and Cuba battle for third-place at 4 p.m.
Jamaica's Gray, who pushed her tally to a tournament-leading nine goals, netted in the 28th, 78th and 90+ minute, while Khadijah Shaw (18th) and Oshay Lawes (64th) also scored for the hosts. Yoanne Gonzanez netted the consolation goal for Cuba.
Jamaica dominated the play as Cuba, who were without their inspirational captain and central defender, Regio Martinez, because of cards accumulation, could not contain the host nation.
2-0 at halftime
The Jamaicans started slowly, then took control when the 16-year-old Shaw slammed a shot past Cuba's goalkeeper Monica Padilla. Gray then scored her first goal to give Jamaica a 2-0 lead going into the break.
Lawes put the Young Reggae Girlz further ahead, then Gray added the last two goals for her hat-trick. Gonzanez gave Cuba a glimmer of hope after she benefited from an error by goalkeeper Chris-Ann Chambers.
"I am definitely pleased with the girls' performance. We scored five times in a semi-final and could have scored more. We dominated the game," Gilbert told The Gleaner.
The first game was a highly competitive contest between Trinidad and Tobago and the Dominican Republic. Patrice Campbell put T&T ahead in the 30th minute, but Yaqueisi Soriano levelled for Cuba in the 44th minute.
However, T&T fought back and scored the winner when Kadisha Debesetter netted the winner in the 81st minute.
Izler Browne, coach of T&T, was delighted that her team achieved their main obective of qualifying for the CONCACAF stage in the World Cup Qualifiers.
"Our main objective was to qualify. It was a hard-fought game. This is how it is and I am proud of the players. We are now looking forward to the final.
"We will now look to win the CFU competition. We have some injuries and will rest those players as the bigger picture is the CONCACAF stage," Browne disclosed.