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Nigeria clip Jamaica in Toyota Unified Football Cup

Senior staff reporter

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

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CHICAGO, Illinois — Special Olympics Jamaica fought stoutly, but went down 0-1 to their Nigerian counterparts on yesterday's opening day of the inaugural Toyota Unified Football Cup.

Bamidele Olaleye got the winner for Nigeria in the 17th minute of the closely contested, 60-minute encounter at the Fire Pitch's northern field.

In the group's other game, Italy and Japan ended goalless at the venue's southern field.

Jamaica's Head Coach Shane Richards said his team matched up well against the hard-running and slippery Nigeria outfit.

“Nigeria never necessarily played a better game than us, but the difference is that they took their chance. There were positives in that some players gave better than we expected; they came out on the [artificial] turf and they really played [well]. We dug in and we had Nigeria on the back foot,” he said during a post-match interview.

Richards explained that some of the team's plans were not being executed early in the game.

“I thought in the first half we tried to do too much individually and not enough as a team. A lot of what we knew we had to do was not carried out in terms of tactical decisions. Then if you don't score and then give them a chance with a defensive error you [lose],” he lamented.

The Jamaica coach stressed there is no time to be hung up on defeat as they look ahead to today's game against Special Olympics Japan at 3:00 pm.

“We have to regroup and come again, there's no time to cry over anything because we have Japan right here tomorrow [today], so it's just to get on a winning note. We saw Japan and we have height advantage over them, so all we have to do is come and regroup.”

Yesterday, Nigeria sprung into life from the opening whistle and pushed back the Jamaicans in the early exchanges. During that time, Jamaica's defensive unit and goalkeeper Shaquon Beckford combined to keep them at bay.

However, after sustained pressure from Nigeria, who continued to move the ball around with sharpness and purpose, took the lead through Olaleye. He was first to deftly volley home a loose ball from the edge of the box after Beckford punched out a dangerous cross.

Seemingly spurred into action, the Jamaicans picked up their pace, but lacked the passing accuracy and cohesion in movement, and subsequently gave up easy possession to their opponents on occasions.

However, as the first half wore on they found rhythm, and Captain Moran Singh and Clive Jarrett began to pull strings in midfield with good effect.

The Jamaican's momentum continued in the second half. At the other end, Nigeria remained dangerous and created a few opportunities, mostly off counter attacks but were indecisive in the final third.

Approximately in the middle of the half, Singh attempted a speculative, long-range shot, but the Nigerian custodian Phillip Meto handled with ease.

In the final moments, Jamaica's substitute Tajae Able broke free inside the 18-yard box, but hit the side netting from an acute angle.

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