Jamaica's unbeaten run in the 2015 CANCACAF Gold Cup continued on Tuesday night as they muscled their way to a 1-0 win over El Salvador at BMO Field in Toronto, Canada.
A tap in from five yards in minute 72 by Garath McCleary eased Jamaica to victory and marks the first time in their history that the nation have topped their group.
The Reggae Boyz had some early scares by losing both goalkeeper Dwayne Miller and defender Jermaine Taylor to injury within the first half an hour of play. These early substitution disrupted their game plan, hence the first half was very flat by the Reggae Boyz.
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Flores, in his first start for El Salvador this tournament, was in the thick of the action early, earning a yellow for a challenge on Giles Barnes in just the fourth minute. While challenging for a ball two minutes later, Flores made contact with Jermaine Taylor, and the Jamaican was forced from the field due to an injury suffered in the clash.
The Salvadorians pressed forward with Flores and in minute 12 he delivered a teasing ball to the front post, where Punyed met it on the volley. His connection wasn't threatening however and the ball looped over Miller's crossbar.
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Jamaica's best chance of the half came in the 17th minute when Rodulph Austin drove forward and was encouraged to shoot when he got to the edge of the area. His ferocious shot flew wide of the up right as goalkeeper Carrillo scampered across his goal line.
Immediately following that strike by Austin. El Savador charged forward with Ceren who ingeniously chipped the ball into the box from a neat give and go with Punyed who then darted into the box. The midfielder could not reach the ball ahead of Miller, and the keeper was clattered by Punyed's trailing leg. He was forced to leave the field on a stretcher.
If Jamaica wanted to avoid the defending champions USA in the second round they had to win to ensure they won the group and El Salvador had to win to keep their chances alive for the second round.
Late in the first half brilliant link-up play from the Central Americans ended with Larin who delivered a low cross from the left. It was an excellent through ball that had Wes Morgan giving his best to clear the danger.
At this point the Salvadorians started turning the screw, spraying passes from one flank to the other, much to the delight of the small crowd. Jamaica was lucky to end the half level.
El Salvador came out in the second half with only one intention as they hunted the goal they needed to ensure their progression.
Throwing everything at the Jamaicans in attack the Central Americans almost got the break through they needed, but substitute goalkeeper Ryan Thompson pulled off a remarkable double-save to preserve Jamaica's clean sheet.
He first parried Pablo Punyed's effort from range before blocking Andres Flores' close-range effort from the rebound with his legs.
For the first time since the restart, Jamaica got the ball up front. Mattocks put the ball under control expertly and held up play to bring McAnuff in.
The midfielder struck the ball firmly towards goal, forcing Carrilo into a diving save. It wasn't a bad one, but it fell straight to McCleary, and the Reading man had the simple task of tapping it into an empty net, hugely against the run if play.
Moments later in minute 79, Mattocks who did so well in the build up to the goal, became the first player to be sent off in this year's Gold Cup. He was a little too reckless in trying to close down Larin and he was given his second yellow card and subsequent marching orders for the late challenge.
From there on the Reggae Boyz held their nerves to see out the few attacks from El Salvador.
The victory now makes it eight games in succession without defeat against the Salvadorians.It also means that Jamaica will emerge as winners of group B and will play second place Haiti from group A. The Los Cuscatlecos are now in limbo, relying on the other results to help them advance in the competition.
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