Hallgrimsson rues lapse in concentration as Canada edge Boyz 2-1 in opening quarter-final leg

By November 18, 2023
Jamaica's Dexter Lembikisa closes in for a challenge on Alphonso Davies of Canada during their first-leg CNL quarter-final fixture at the National Stadium on Saturday. Jamaica's Dexter Lembikisa closes in for a challenge on Alphonso Davies of Canada during their first-leg CNL quarter-final fixture at the National Stadium on Saturday. Jhon-Marc Prince

Jamaica's senior Reggae Boyz Head Coach Heimir Hallgrimsson rued his team’s missed opportunities along with a lapse in concentration that proved their undoing, as they will have to overturn a one-goal deficit if they intend to progress to the Concacaf Nations League semi-final, as well as next year's Copa America, after they went down 1-2 to Canada in their opening quarter-final leg at the National Stadium on Saturday.

Jonathan David sent Canada in front in the 45+1, before Shamar Nicholson added to his rich Nations League scoring form, with a 56th-minute strike. However, poor defending by the Jamaicans allowed Stephen Eustaquio (86th) to notch the decisive goal and put Canada in the driver's seat heading into Tuesday's second leg at the BMO Field in Toronto.

"It was really hot, so the tempo understandably wasn't high. In a game like this it's about keeping focus, they lost focus, and we didn't punish them, and we lost focus, and they punished us. At this level when you don't take your chances you get hurt and that was the end result," Hallgrimsson said in a post-game interview.

Jamaica started the contest, which was pushed back from Friday due to inclement weather, spiritedly in bright sunny conditions, as they showed some degree of enterprise in the early exchanges and should have opened the scoring in 15th minute. This, as Leon Bailey breached Canada's defence, but dragged his left-footed effort wide of the target in a one-on-one situation with goalkeeper Milan Borjan.

Canada also had an early opportunity of their own through David, whose effort was kept out by Reggae Boyz captain Andre Blake in goal.

The Canadians continued their probe and almost broke the deadlock in the 32nd, as Cyle Larin was allowed time and space to release a right-footer from outside the 18-yard box, but Blake again proved equal to the task.

Canada used the channels well for the service and had a few more half chances but were still unable to break Jamaica's resistance. 

Bailey should have put the Jamaicans in front in the 40th when he arrived at the far post to meet Bobby Reid's weighted corner, but the effort slammed into the left upright. 

The Jamaicans later paid for that missed opportunity, as Larin turned his marker and played a pass inside for David to tap in.

Canada should have added another in stoppage time, when David produced a tidy run down left channel and found Larin, who had enough time and space to pick a spot from dead centre of the 18-yard box but steered right-footer wide.

The North Americans picked up where they left off on the resumption and almost doubled the lead four minutes in, but David's well-struck effort from almost 20-yards out was parried by Blake.

Jamaica came into their own and pulled level when a quickly taken freekick from Reid sent Nicholson in behind Canada's defence and the towering striker made no mistakes with a firmly struck effort. Though initially flagged offside, the goal stood via the VAR review.

From there, the contest remained evenly poised and could have gone either way in the latter stages, but it was Canada, who inevitably found the winner.

Richie Laryea’s dashing run down the right channel dragged Jamaica’s defence and opened up space for Eustaquio to sweep home the perfect cut-back pass from deep inside the 18-yard box.

 

Sherdon Cowan

Sherdon Cowan is a five-time award-winning journalist with 10 years' experience covering sports.

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