Wednesday, October 20

Jamaica into second round of Gold Cup

Ryan Johnson missed a second-half penalty kick, but his shot off the crossbar and the back of Honduran goalkeeper Noel Valladares in the first half gave Jamaica a 1-0 win over Honduras in a top-of-the-table clash in Group B Monday night in front of a sellout crowd of 25,000 at Red Bull Arena.

Jamaica, which advances to the quarterfinals for the first time since 2005, will face the runner-up from Group C, which was to play its final matches on Tuesday in Kansas City, Kansas. The loss elegated Honduras to a match against facing fellow Central American side Costa Rica on Saturday at East Rutherford, New Jersey.

“We’ve made a lot of progress,” Jamaica coach Theodore Whitmore said. “Most of the guys have been working for a year now, a good bunch, disciplined. What we got today and in this tournament was the ball possession because we tend to give away the ball a lot. We can see a difference in our ball possession.”

Capitalizing on open space granted by Honduras, Johnson hit a hard drive in the 36th minute from 25 meters that caromed off the off the crossbar and then Valladares’ back before trickling into the goal.

“It was probably one of the strangest, but it’s a goal,” Johnson said. “We did the best thing, which was get the clean sheet. We haven’t been scored on so far and I’m really happy about that.”

Playing in his home stadium, midfielder Dane Richards of the New York Red Bulls had the first dangerous chance of the match when he was played behind the Honduran defense in the third minute. But Valladares did well to come off his line and push the ball out for a corner.

Honduras coach Luis Fernando Suarez was forced to make his first substitution in the 26th minute when Carlos Costly left with an apparent rib injury to his side suffered on a diving attempt in the six-yard box in the 13th minute. The veteran striker twice received treatment from the Honduran trainer before finally leaving the match for Ramon Nunez.

Honduran press officer Edwin Banegas said after the match Costly did not have a broken rib, but further internal tests were forthcoming.

Richards’ blazing speed again caused Honduras trouble in the 32nd minute when he was played inside the box by Adrian Reid, but his chip from an acute angle on the right side of the box was cleared by a Honduran defender.

Honduras nearly equalized in the 38th minute when Nunez curled a free kick into the box, but Jerry Bengtson’s deflection bounced wide.

Jamaica picked up where it left off two minutes into the second half as Jevaughn Watson’s low shot from distance skipped just wide of the far post following an in-swinging corner kick that was punched away by Valladares.

Jamaica’s Keammar Daley tested Valladares from distance on the hour mark, but his attempt bounced wide of the near post, eliciting a collective sigh of relief from the overwhelmingly partisan Honduran crowd.

Two minutes later, Richards found space in the box, but his shot was bravely blocked by defender Victor Bernardez.

Honduras had another chance to equalize in the 65th minute, but Ramon Nunez’s free kick from 22 meters was wide of the far post.

Four minutes later, halftime substitute Walter Martinez had the ball at his feet in the box, but he rolled a shot into Jamaican goalkeeper Dwayne Miller.

“In the second half, we were the ones attacking and managing the ball, a lot of constant arrivals at goal, a lot of quick feet on the ball,” Suarez said. “In the first half I think we missed out having a little bit more touch with the ball and in that sense, maybe playing the ball a bit more in the first half. We didn’t have what we had in the second half.”

Johnson nearly sealed the game for the Reggae Boyz when he stepped to the spot in the 72nd minute after Salvadoran referee Joel Aguilar ruled he was tripped inside the box by Osman Chavez. But Valladares dived to his left to make the save and keep Honduras in the match.

Five minutes later, Bernardez took a blistering free kick from 30 meters wide of the Jamaican net.

Honduras pushed numbers forward in a frantic attempt to equalize, but it was to no avail.

“It was a complicated game, we saw from the very beginning,” Suarez said. “Losing will never be a good thing. You’ll never like it. But there’s a dignified way of losing and I think today it was that way.”

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