Late goal sinks Boyz at Azteca - Brilliant strike by Nicholson not enough to earn point for Ja
Without the luxury of having their strongest team available, Jamaica were minutes away from getting a valuable point from Mexico at a spectator less Estadio Azteca.
Instead, a late Henry Martin strike proved to be the winner as Mexico edged the Reggae Boyz 2-1 last night in a Concacaf World Cup qualifying match. Only three of the 15 British-based players travelled to Mexico, the rest were unavailable because of travel restrictions. Head coach Theodore Whitmore gave Swindon Town's Anthony Grant his international debut while Adrian Mariappa was paired with Damion Lowe in the centre of defence.
The Reggae Boyz opted to absorb as much pressure as they could and had to thwart several opportunities that came the way of the Mexicans. Rogelio Funes Mori had a free header in the 24th minute but his effort was wide of the goal. It was taste of what was to come as Mexico had all the possession and all of the clear-cut chances. Sebastian Cordova put his header wide but soon after Jamaica was given a rare opportunity to take a shock lead. Shamar Nicholson managed to go on the counter-attack and his low cross found Norman Campbell but Mexican goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa managed to push the ball out for a corner. However, Jamaica did not make good use of the resulting set piece.
Mexico finally got their reward five minutes into the second half where Roberto Alvarado's shot was cleared only to the feet of Vega who worked himself into space and his low drive went under captain Andre Blake and into the back of the net. Mexico should have doubled their lead in the 63rd minute when Funes Mori managed to find a wide open Alvarado but instead of tapping into an empty net his shot banged off the post. It was a missed opportunity that they would soon regret as two minutes later a long ball into the Mexican box was partially cleared and Nicholson's one-time finish went past Ochoa and into the net to restore parity. Nicholson is only the third Jamaican player to score at the Azteca.
From there, Blake was called into action various times to keep the Mexicans at bay and it seemed that they were inching closer to getting a valuable point. However, Martin's shot from outside the box sailed into the top corner to give the home team all three points and leave the Reggae Boyz empty-handed. Mexico had 27 shots with seven of them on target, while Jamaica only had four with one on target.
Jamaica will face Panama in their home opener at the National Stadium on Sunday.