ST JOHN’S, Antigua — Jamaica’s defence of their Caribbean Cup suffered a heavy blow when they could only manage a 0-0 draw with Martinique in a rugged contest at the Sir Vivian Richards Cricket Stadium here last night.
Jamaica are firmly rooted at the bottom of Group B on a solitary point behind leaders Martinique (four), and French Guiana and Cuba on three points each.
Jamaica have it all to do in their final preliminary game against Cuba tomorrow, and must win and hope the French showdown earlier would see Martinique defeating French Guiana as the most favourable scenario to give them some hope of slipping into the knockout phase.
Of course a win for the Reggae Boyz and a draw between the French teams could also be a possibility, but what is certain is that Jamaica find themselves between a rock and a hard place.
In yesterday’s bruising contest, Martinique looked the more organised team going forward in the early exchanges and actually got the ball into the goal in the 14th minute when Jordi Delem attacked a floated ball in, but the referee ruled off-side. Two minutes later they threatened again through captain Kevin Parsemain, who unleashed from 25 yards out, but Dwayne Miller was down quickly to smother the danger.
The Martinique goalkeeper got his first real test when Demar Phillips’ 30-yard shot flew goalwards like a missile homing in on its target, but goalkeeper Kevin Olimpa put his frame behind it as an effective counter-measure.
In summary, the first 45 minutes were marked by scrappy play from both sides, which saw the referee getting more involved than he ought to in trying to temper exuberant tackles.
It was, however, an encouraging start to the second stanza as the Boyz’ approach play appeared more positive and constructive, but still they lacked the panache to craft a way through the Martinique defence.
But with things looking up for the Jamaicans in a very physical contest, the brutish game claimed its first victim when left-back Demar Phillips picked up his second yellow card and was sent off in the 62nd minute.
Three minutes later, the bench acted by taking out central defender and skipper Shavar Thomas and injected the veteran left-sided man Ricardo Gardner, who brought some spunk but the Jamaicans were dragging a heavy burden with their one-man deficit.
With four minutes on the clock, the Jamaicans received a scare when Sebastien Cretinoir’s low shot from 30 yards was spilled by substitute goalie Duwayne Kerr, but he fixed things on the second attempt.
On the stroke of full time, the Boyz looked set for a late steal, but Darren Mattocks, having squeezed between two players, could not get off an effective shot from inside the box.
In the opening contest of the double-header, Cuba revived their campaign by coming from behind to clip French Guiana 2-1.
Meanwhile, Haiti soared to the top of Group A of the CFU Caribbean Championship with a 2-1 win over the Dominican Republic at the Antigua Recreation Ground on Sunday.
In the feature of the double-header, hosts Antigua and Barbuda breathed life into their fading campaign with a 2-0 blanking of former multi-champions Trinidad and Tobago.
Haiti sit atop the standings on four points, followed by Dominican Republic and Antigua on three points apiece. Trinidad lie at the bottom with one point.
In the first day of competition on Friday, Haiti and Trinidad drew 0-0, while Dominican Republic clipped Antigua 2-1.
Today’s final preliminary matches in the group will see Haiti face Antigua and Trinidad and Dominican are down to square off, also at the Antigua Recreation Ground.