Sport

Boyz give good account in losing effort against slick Serbia

IAN BURNETT ON TOUR with the REGGAE BOYS

Tuesday, May 27, 2014    

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HARRISON, New Jersey — Jamaica kicked off their four-game friendly international series with a 1-2 loss to a slick Serbian outfit here at the Red Bull Arena yesterday.

Midfielder Dusan Tadic opened the scoring in the 13th minute and Manchester City's left back Aleksandar Kolarov added another in the 22nd minute, before substitute Michael Seaton pulled one back for the Reggae Boyz in the 53rd minute.

The game was played in front of a sparse crowd of less than 3,000, well below the 25,000 capacity venue, which is home to the New York Red Bulls. The Serbians entered the field wearing white t-shirts with the words "SERBIA NEEDS HELP" on both the front and the back. They then invited the Jamaican team and match officials to join them behind a huge banner with the same words at the half line. The organisers then asked for a moment's silence.

That was as far as the pleasantries were extended as the Europeans got off to a blistering start, with slick combination plays, forcing the Reggae Boyz deep into their defensive third.

The Boyz didn't help their cause as with the game only three minutes old striker Darren Mattocks, who had retreated to help out in defence, picked up a clearance midway his half on the right flank. Though facing his goal he played a blind pass intended for goalkeeper Andre Blake, only for the lurking Aleksandar Mitrovic to intercept.

The big striker teased the unsure goalkeeper before serving a well-weighted pass for the onrushing Lazar Markovic, who cleared the way before slamming the ball against the crossbar. Danger averted, but not for long as the Serbs mounted attack after attack.

The Jamaican three-man defence, which included Alvas Powell, who arrived from his Portland Timber outfit on Sunday night, started to show signs of cracking and it was not surprise when they let in the first goal.

Tadic received a pass from midfield towards the left of the field, played a neat give-and-go with Zoran Tosic to free himself inside the penalty box. Still, he had plenty to do, but he did it in style, as he skipped by Upstan Edwards

before firing a low shot past Blake.

Nine minutes later Jamaica gifted possession of the ball to Kolarov and he made them pay the ultimate price. Retreating midway the Jamaican half, Christopher Humphrey attempted a clearance only for the ball to be picked off by Kolarov, who worked

his way into the box, thanks to a one-two play with Tadic, and the Barclay's Premiership winner blasted past Blake at his near post.

The Boyz then got into their own and started to penetrate the Serbs with skill and pace in attack, however, their finishing inside the final third failed to match their enterprise.

Goalkeeper Vladimir Stojkovic was forced into his first save towards the end of the first half when Mattocks's effort was easily save after a good build-up play from the back.

But the Jamaican defence was always susceptible at the other end and Blake, the unused number one overall pick in this season's MLS draft by the Philadelphia Union, came up trumps with a number of fine saves to keep his team in the game.

Coach Winfried Schaefer replaced Mattocks with Seaton and John-Ross Edwards with Nicholas Beckett at the start of the second half, and along with his team talk which included better possession of the ball and patience, the Boyz looked a better unit.

And it was no surprise when the feisty Seaton unlocked the Serbian defence when he rose high to plant a header well out of the reach of the despairing dive of Stojkovic after Kemar Lawrence and Joel Grant combined well on the left to provide the cross into the penalty area.

But at the other end, Blake showed what he was made of with a string of fine saves. And in what could be considered the best move of the game for the Boyz, Dawkins produced a thunderous shot which was equally well saved by the flying Stojkovic,

which evoked applause for both the striker and the goalkeeper.

Substitute Nicholy Finlayson and Dawkins combined well on the left from their half of the field, and as they sliced their way through the field, the Derby County player employed Seaton in an excellent one-touch move, and as he sought to clear a few

defenders, he was forced wide which made the chance a little more difficult, thus giving Stojkovic the chance to execute the save.

As the game petered out, substitute Hughan Gray brought down Kolarov inside the penalty area, but Blake had other ideas, as he executed a brilliant save to stun the Manchester City man, and his supporters inside the Arena, to keep the score line respectable.

Coach Schaefer was pleased with the effort of his team, all factors considered.

"I believe Jamaica was the winner," he declared. "We showed that Jamaica can play football. Many local players played against some very good Serbian players, who play at top clubs in Europe, and after a nervous start, they showed what they can do and I am satisfied.

"Sure, they made mistakes, that is obvious, but I'm not bothered by that," he said, before highlighting the difficulties many of his players encountered because they are not fully fit at this time.

The Boyz, minus Powell and Deshorn Brown, will depart New York today for Switzerland, where they will play that country on Friday at Luzern. They then journey to London to face Egypt on June 4, before wrapping up the series against France in Lille on June 8.

Teams:

Jamaica — Andre Blake, Alvas Powell, Upstan Edwards, Lloyd Doyley, Rodolph Austin, John-Ross Edwards (Nicholas beckett 46th), Joel Grant (Romario Campbell 78th), Kemar Lawrence INicholy Finlayson 74th), Christopher Humphrey (Hughan Gray 71st), Simon Dawkins (Deshorn Brown 83rd), Darren Mattocks (Michael Seaton 46th).

Subs not used: Jacomeno Barrett, Dwayne Miller.

Booked: Upstan Edwards (86th)

Serbia — Vladimir Stojkovic, Branislav Ivanovic, Aleksandar Jolarov, Nemanja Pejcinovic, Nemanja Gudelj, Nemanja Matic (Radoslav Petrovic 86th), Milos Tojic, Dusan Tadic, Lazar Markovic (Dusan Basta 60th), Zoran Tosic, Aleksandar Mitrovic (Filip Dordevic 69th)

Subs not used: Zeljko Brkic, Dusan Tosic, Radoslav Petrovic, Filip Dordevic, Stefan Mitrovic.

Booked: None

Referee: Dave Gantar (Canada)

Assistants: Phil Briere, Daniel Belleau (Canada)

Fourth Official: Jose Carlos Rivero (USA)

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