‘Be fair to Bailey’
Hallgrimsson lauds winger for playing through painful injury
REGGAE BOYZ coach Heimir Hallgrimsson is calling Leon Bailey’s performance against Canada in an opening-leg 2-1 loss creditable, despite numerous chances going abegging for the Aston Villa man yesterday inside the National Stadium.
The Jamaicans, playing a day after heavy showers postponed their Concacaf Nations League A quarter-final first leg against Canada, looked the more likely of the teams to score in a slow-paced game, maybe on account of a pelting 10:30 a.m. sun.
Canada took the lead through Jonathan David just before the break and, although Shamar Nicholson equalised for the host in the 56th minute, Stephan Eustaquio gave Mauro Biello’s team the win with an 85th-minute strike.
“It was a real difficult match to play. It was really hot. So the tempo, understandably, got lower,” said Hallgrimsson.
“It wasn’t a high-tempo game and, given the preparations from yesterday, players didn’t play at their best. But, in a game like this, it is about keeping your focus.
“They lost their focus three or four times and we did not punish them. We lost our focus two or three times and that is how it is at this level, you have to take your chances,” he said.
The Boyz started well and created the chances to go in front in the first half.
However, Aston Villa ace Bailey failed to make use of three excellent opportunities in the period.
His first chance came after four minutes but he put the ball wide with his lob over Canada custodian Milan Borjan.
Ten minutes later, the winger latched on to a ball over the top but, with only Borjan to beat, he dragged his volley wide from four yards, albeit from a tight angle.
Cyle Larin then came close for Canada in the 32nd minute but Andre Blake tipped his effort around the post.
Jamaica defended well
The Canadians also had a few good openings after that but Jamaica defended well to see out the threats.
Bailey then had another great chance from a corner to score before the break but, with the goal at his mercy, he turned his effort off the post from point-blank range.
“In fairness to him (Bailey), he had a bad injury the last game. He had stitches in his legs and had to play through that pain. But I think Leon did really well, considering his condition
“He created chances, that’s what he does. Unluckily for us, he didn’t convert today. But he is the guy who is always in and around our chances,” said Hallgrimsson.
Moments after Bailey’s missed chance, Tajon Buchanan should have given the visitors the advantage when he was played through on goal, but Ethan Pinnock raced back to snuff the danger out just before he got his shot off.
Canada did get the crucial first goal when Larin got past the combination of Dexter Lembikisa and Pinnock before playing in David at the back post for a tap in.
Alphonso Davies should have made it 2-0 minutes later but he placed his effort wide from 12 yards.
Minutes after the interval, Canada had two rasping efforts that just went wide.
However, Shamar Nicholson found the equaliser for the hosts when he latched on to a quickly taken free kick and slotted past Borjan in goal.
Although the goal was initially ruled offside by the assistant referee, the decision was overturned by VAR after referee Tori Penso went to the monitor.
Canada reclaimed the lead minutes before the final whistle when Richie Laryea got behind his marker and centred a low cross for Eustaquio, who turned home from 12 yards.
“Everyone is disappointed,” Hallgrimsson insisted.
“But we need to focus on how we can get ready for the next game.”
Canada coach Biello said it was important Jamaica did not get on the scoresheet early in the match.
“We denied them some of those opportunities early on. We stayed patient throughout the game. We got our chances and took one of them in the first half,” he said.
“They got themselves back into the game in the second half and, sometimes in those moments, you just have to stay focused. So, credit to Canada to fight through it and come back to score a great goal. I am very proud of the team playing in these very harsh conditions. So, really good character by my team,” he added.
The teams will meet in the return leg on Tuesday in Canada.