CATHERINE HALL, St James — Jamaica's Young Reggae Girlz have achieved their first objective in the CONCACAF Women's Under-17 Championship by qualifying for the semi-finals after beating Caribbean neighbours Haiti 3-0 in their Group A game at the Montego Bay Sports Complex last night.
The hosts are the first team in the tournament to confirm their place in the top-four that will be played next week Thursday.
In the game that started in pouring rain and left the field slick, the Jamaicans improved on Wednesday's performance against El Salvador and took control of the group on six points. They now need only a draw in Sunday's final game, against Mexico, to top the group.
The top-two teams from the tournament will qualify for next March's FIFA World Cup in Costa Rica.
Jessica Johnson led the way with two second-half goals, while Asia Lee-Fatt, who got both goals on Wednesday, opened the scoring in the first half with a well-taken goal.
Despite the rain, that started in the first game where Mexico swamped El Salvador 7-0, thus eliminating the latter from the semi-finals, approximately 2,500 fans — the largest crowd of the tournament so far — cheered on the Jamaicans to a morale-boosting victory.
Jamaica dominated the opening minutes with Johnson and Deneisha Blackwood leading the attack down the left flank, supplying Lee-Fatt and Felecia Davidson with crosses.
Lee-Fatt put the host ahead in the ninth minute when she muscled away a Haitian defender then powered the ball past goalkeeper Jonie Gabriel.
Gabriel would soon after be stretchered off the field, after she came out on the wrong side of a collision with Jamaica's Robyn-Ann Whittaker, and was replaced by Naphtaline Clermeus.
The substitute goalkeeper was called into action early parrying a shot from Lee-Fatt, who shrugged off a lunging tackle to shoot powerfully to goal in the 42nd minute.
Johnson doubled the lead in the 53rd minute when she sped away from the Haitian defenders and beat Clermeus. The Jamaican added a second 10 minutes later to send the crowd into wild celebration.
The Haitians came close to pulling one back when they hit the underside of the crossbar in the 86th minute, but the ball was successfully cleared out of the danger zone.
In the first game of the afternoon, Mexico eliminated El Salvador from consideration, beating them 7-0, with Janae Gonzalez scoring the tournament's first hat-trick with goals in the 27th, 54th and 59th minutes.
Jacqueline Garcia scored twice in the 15th and 56th minutes, while Belen Cruz in the 20th and Cinthia Huarta in the 33rd got the others.