U-20 Girlz register 4-1 consolation win over Panama
Jamaica's young Reggae Girlz celebrate one of their two goals scored against Honduras during their Concacaf Under-20 Championship qualifying fixture in Nicaragua on Tuesday, April18, 2023.(Photo: Observer file)

AFTER losing their first two games and being eliminated from the race for a spot in the 2024 FIFA Under-20 Women's World Cup, Jamaica's young Reggae Girlz can walk without shame after defeating Panama 4-1 in their final Group A match in the Concacaf Women's Under-20 Championship.

Playing at Estadio Felix Sanchez in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, Natoya Atkinson (16th minute), Davia Richards (32nd minute), Maya Raghunandanan (37th minute), and Amelia Van Zanten (74th minute) ensured that the young Reggae Girlz went home happy. In the 79th minute Meredith Rosas scored Panama's consolation goal.

With the victory the Girlz finished third in Group A with three points while Panama finished last with nought. At the time of writing the United States led Canada 5-1, with 32 minutes remaining in the other group game.

The Girlz dominated their game, playing with considerable freedom for the first time in the competition as they controlled possession throughout.

In fact they were so effective in offence, especially in the first half, that they held a high line, got significant numbers forward, and camped out in Panama's half of the pitch.

Following a few warning shots the Girlz broke the deadlock when Atkinson blasted home from close range after Destiny Powell's original effort hit the crossbar.

Despite applying sustained pressure the Girlz had to wait until minutes after the half-hour mark to double their lead. After a VAR review Mireilis Rojas was found to have handled the ball insde the 18-yard box, and Richards obliged by converting from the 12-yard line.

Panama were not without hope, however, as they attempted to play their game and even stitched together a few decent build-ups to remind the Jamaicans of their ability, but they were unable to get anything on frame.

Thereafter the Jamaicans extended their lead through Raghunandanan who pounced on a loose ball and sent a one-time attempt from a distance, past Panama goalkeeper Alejandra Garay, to make it 3-0 at the break.

Panama were never expected to overcome the gap but they were obviously more determined on the restart, with Sherline King forcing a fingertip save from Jamaican goalkeeper Katie Oakley in the 58th minute.

As the game progressed the Central Americans gained confidence in the offensive third, particularly as the young Girlz apparently became complacent and overconfident at times.

When the Jamaicans regained their composure Van Zanten scored from the penalty spot after Garay took out the quick-footed Shaneil Buckley inside the danger zone.

Panama, however, quickly replied with their own 12-yard conversion. Rosas was cool, controlled, and collected in blasting past Oakley following substitute Andrene Smith's felling of Aaliyah Gil in the 18-yard box immediately after joining the pitch.

The Jamaicans could have added to their tally in the closing moments but they lacked poise, and it took some brilliance from Oakley to deny Gil four minutes from time.

Ruddy Allen

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