An instinctive finish from star striker Giles Barnes in the seventh minute was enough for Jamaica to defeat Haiti 1-0 and book a spot in the CONCACAF Gold Cup semi finals against hosts and defending champions USA.
The Reggae Boyz got of a 'lightening bolt' start, when the former Derby County midfielder, Barnes, nipped in ahead of Frantz Bertin to steal the ball before striking past Johny Placide for what proved the decisive blow in the second game of the day in Baltimore.
The Reggae Boyz went ahead when Crystal Palace's Adrian Mariapa ran onto a sublime chip pass from captain Rudolph Austin over the defense that landed near the goal line.
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He cut the ball back for the 26-year-old Barnes, who was born in London and played for England's Under-19 team before switching his allegiance to Jamaica. Barnes took a touch and scored his second international goal on a shot that deflected off the inside of Placide's right ankle.
Jamaica entered the game as favorites and got the go ahead goal early in the contest but were far from their best attacking wise. Defensively they were stout, the back four were again solid like a Trojan. The Haitians did their best to wear down the Reggae Boyz and equalize during the first half, but failed to do so.
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In the 13th minute, Haiti's prolific forward Duckens Nazon lined up a 20-yard blast which Jamaica ‘keeper Ryan Thompson parried away from danger. Two minutes later, a corner kick swung to the back post found Haiti midfielder James Marcelin at the goal line.
Thompson was again there to keep the Haitians off the board, smothering the attempt. Ryan Thompson a fill in goalkeeper for the injured Duwayne Miller is the only Jamaican custodian to play in a Champions League game.
Slowly the contest became a David against Golliath battle with Haiti having the lion's share of possession and dictating the play. Jamaica sat back a little too deep and allowed the Haitians to come at them. Their best chance came in minute 24 when Nazon hit a thunder bolt from 18 yards out that kissed the outside of the far post.
Jamaica very nearly doubled their lead shortly after the half time whistle. In minute 55, the Leyton Orient midfielder Jobi McAnuff pounced on a mishit pass 20 yards out before breaking in alone on goal. His driven attempt was cleared by Placide, directly into the path of Barnes, who couldn’t manage to put his follow-up shot on target.
New York Red Bulls defender Kemar Lawrence, after scoring a beauty against Canada in a friendly international last year, has become the free kick specialist in that area around the box. In minute 70 he was giving another chance to replicate his last hit and his curling, pacy, dipping free kick sailed over the wall from 20 yards out en route to goal, but Placide was again up to the task.
Haiti seemed to lose a little steam in the game’s final 15 minutes, succumbing a bit to the summer heat and rigours of the tournament. Barnes nearly put the game to bed on minute 83 with a point blank shot, but Placide, who was busy during the game’s second stanza, punched it clear.
The Haitians followed up with their own flurry at the death. Second-half substitute Kernes Belfort got his head on a ball eight yards from goal, his attempt trickling inches wide of the far post.
At the final whistle, both sides collapsed to the ground, one team in jubilation while the other in despair.
In the day's other game, the USA hit the Cubans for six with their second all time leading goal scorer Clint Dempsey came up "all trumps" with a superb hat-trick.
The Jamaicans will now take on the defending champions in the semi finals on Wednesday. They have gone 300 plus minutes without conceding and if they can manage another shut out against the attacking prowess of the Americans and nip that all important goal then they would have surpassed their best ever finish at the Gold Cup.
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