Mexico City, Mexico – Who would have thought it possible?
Jamaica, the tiny Caribbean island of just 2.7 million people, went to the Estadio Azteca and battled the North Americans, who boast a population of 115 million, 21.2 of which reside in Mexico City, to a 0-0 in their opening World Cup Qualifying Final Round encounter Wednesday night.
It was a historic result for Jamaica, who have been bombarded 8-0, 2-1, 6-0, 4-0, and 3-0 in five previous World Cup encounters in Mexico City. It leaves Jamaica on one point, the same as Mexico, and two behind Honduras, who lead the six-team group on three points after their 2-1 victory over the United States earlier in the day. Panama and Costa Rica are also on one point, after playing to a 2-2 result in Panama City.
The Reggae Boyz and those close to the team were hoping for a “One Love” result on Bob Marley’s birthday, but they would be left satisfied after the final result.
The hosts dominated possession, but Jamaica played their part in the contest, springing numerous chances on the counter attack.
In fact, the Boyz created the better clear-cut chances in the game, which saw the hosts coming out on the hunt for the opening goal, and forcing the visitors back into their own half. However, they found the gold and black-clad Jamaicans in a defiant mood.
In the eighth minute the Reggae Boyz were desperately unlucky not to have taken the lead. Jermaine ‘Teddy’ Johnson stole possession and relayed a pass to Garath McCleary on the right. The Reading FC wide man wasted no time in centering for his club captain, Jobi McAnuff, who placed the ball cheekily outside the reach of goalkeeper Jesus Corona, but the right upright intervened.
McAnuff was quick to the rebound, and just when he seemed almost certain to score, Corona reacted magnificently to parry away, much to the relief of the partisan crowd, and the chagrin of the few Jamaican supporters, including the National Under-20 team.
On the quarter hour Giovani Dos Santos tested Jamaican goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts with a rasping drive, after cutting inside from the right. And as Jamaica failed to clear their defensive lines, Ricketts had to be alert once again to block at his near post.
The Mexicans, dressed in white shirts and shorts and red stockings, were caught out yet again on the half hour mark, but McCleary’s superb lobbed pass inside the penalty area, was just missed by the onrushing Ryan Johnson.
And moments later Rodolph Austin stole possession inside the Mexican third, but his tame left-footer was easily tipped over the horizontal by Corona.
The Mexicans were quick again out the blocks at the start of the second half, forcing some hurried clearances and working Ricketts in the process.
But the Boyz weathered the storm and after the hour mark Ryan Johnson broke in behind the central defenders and was left one-on-one with Corona, but he shot straight onto the grateful arms of Corona.
Boos started raining down on the Mexicans, whose fans became frustrated at their team’s inability to breakdown the disciplined and feisty Jamaicans.
Thirteen minutes from the end substitute Theo Robinson was played through but his second touch forced him wide and with no support, he took on Corona at his near post, but the goalkeeper won out, smothering the ball.
In time added, as the Mexicans pushed forward, Ricketts came up big, blocking Manchester United’s Javier Hernandez with a brave tackle.
At the final whistle, as the Boyz applauded the supporters from the middle of the pitch, they gracefully responded by returning the applause, a rare gesture inside the much feared Azteca.