Boyz cling to hope despite crippling loss to Mexico
Alexis Vega (left) ofMexico fights forpossession of the ballwith Jamaica's JuniorFlemmings during theirConcacaf World Cupqualifying match atNational Stadium inKingston on Thursdaynight. Mexico won 2-1.(Photo: Naphtali Junior)

PANAMA CITY, Panama — Once there is life there is hope.

And for Reggae Boyz interim Head Coach Paul Hall, there remains a chance for his charges to create a miracle and force their way to Qatar.

Hall's team played half Thursday's World Cup qualifier against Mexico with 10 men, took an early second-half lead, but just failed to see out the game, suffering two strikes in two minutes to lose all three points on offer in the 1-2 result.

Having frustrated the more technically gifted visitors for the first 45 minutes, Jamaica suffered a shock when central defender Damion Lowe was ejected for serious foul play after a robust challenge on Mexican skipper Jose Guardado.

Salvadoran Referee Ismael Cornejo saw nothing amiss but he was advised by American Allen Chapman, the VAR rep, to have another look at the incident and Cornejo returned to the pitch to order Lowe to have an early shower.

But for the coach, a former Reggae Boy, Costa Rica's win over fourth-placed Panama has left the door to the World Cup finals ajar.

“All is not lost. If you look at the game last night [Thursday night] what we did see were some really good things coming out of that game, and the only bad thing that didn't come out was the fact that we all wanted three points — and I think we deserved three points,” Hall told the media ahead of the team's departure from Kingston to Panama City via a chartered flight.

He added: “It was a game where we were very organised defensively. I think Mexico were very frustrated with us, not being able to break us down easily. They had the lion's share of possession [however]. I would have liked us to have a lot more possession and be a little bit braver.”

Mexico bossed the game for the duration of the first half with their distinct possessional style of play, and had Jamaica's Andre Blake active on occasion.

The best chance for Jamaica came moments before the sending off as Michail Antonio turned his marker inside the penalty box, and as he unleashed a thunderous right-footer a retreating defender slid in to block the effort as goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa scrambled across his goal.

Being a man down forced Jamaica's technical staff into a reshape, and frontman Lamar Walker was sacrificed for central defender Liam Moore.

Five minutes into the second half Daniel Johnson lashed home a left-footer to stun Tata Martino's regional strongmen, but as the game wore on Mexico changed to a more attacking formation and in the 81st minute Henry Martin equalised, and two minutes later Ernesto Vega notched the winner in a dramatic change of fortunes.

Hall said though he could have done some things differently, it all came down to just two moments for the victors.

“In hindsight there are always things that you could cite, but it really came down to two real chances that the Mexicans took and maybe a couple of errors on our side, but [I'm] pretty happy with what we had.”

The coach, in his first game in charge since replacing Theodore Whitmore last month, believes that the Boyz' performance gained the respect of the Mexicans as at one stage playing with 10 men they threatened to get another goal.

The Boyz arrived in Panama mid-afternoon Friday, ahead of Sunday's clash with the home side who lost 0-1 away to Costa Rica in San Jose on Thursday night. And Hall believes if the Boyz replicate some of the things they did on Thursday, they could get something from the game.

Blackpool's Kevin Stewart was a newcomer to the squad and was not on the match card against Mexico but he's travelled for Sunday's game, and Hall hinted that the central midfielder would see playing time at some stage.

“We've got to manage him and manage his minutes and hopefully, we can get him into the games because he's a good player and he helps us to progress up the pitch,” noted Hall.

Meanwhile, Lowe's dismissal has been referred to the Fifa's Disciplinary Committee, and the player has until January 30 to answer to the charge, failing which the committee will accept the report in its possession and make a determination as to the penalty.

The central defender has been replaced in the squad by Cavalier's Richard King.

Last evening some players had a recovery session at the pool, while others engaged in a gym session after all members of the delegation did PCR tests.

They are expected to take to the field at the match venue on Saturday.

Reggae Boyzdefender DamionLowe (left) walksoff the pitch afterbeing shown thered card duringthe ConcacafWorld Cup qualifieragainst Mexicoat the NationalStadum in Kingstonon Thursday.Mexico won 2-1.Also picturedare interim HeadCoach Paul Hall(centre) andgoal-keeper coachWarren Barrett.(Photo: NaphtaliJunior)
BY IAN BURNETT Sport editor burnetti@jamaicaobserver.com

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