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Reggae Boyz lift standard in El Salvador stalemate

Gordon Williams, Gleaner Writer
WASHINGTON, D.C., United States:

What a difference a week makes. Jamaica bounced back from a disappointing performance against Haiti on May 23 to hold World Cup hopeful El Salvador to a 0-0 draw in a friendly football international at the RFK stadium here on Saturday night.

In a decidedly improved performance, mirrored by better passing and overall coordination, the Reggae Boyz survived a battle waged largely in the trenches of a packed midfield, dodged a few scares by the "Cuscatlecos" and squandered their own chances to snatch a draw in front of 30,313 spectators, of which Jamaica's presence was a mere drop in a loud, flag-waving ocean of blue and white.

Jamaica's coach, John Barnes appeared pleased with the Boyz's turnaround, especially ahead of the June 7 friendly against Panama at the National Stadium and the CONCACAF Gold Cup looming in July. But he was still miffed by the occasional lapses in concentration which threatened to cost his team dearly.

Better match

"It was much better (than the Haiti match)," Barnes said. "We showed a naivety at times when we gave the ball away, when we went too long every now and again. But for most of the time, we kept the ball. We probed, we created chances."

El Salvador were impressed.

"They played really good," said star forward Eliseo Quintanilla, who was rested in the first half, but sent on after the break as coach Carlos de los Cobos searched for a winner. "They're fast and strong. They tried to move the ball and keep the ball."

Yet it was El Salvador which could have struck a decisive blow just past the quarter-hour mark. A lovely weighted ball dropped behind Rafe Wolfe at left back and tempted goalkeeper Dwayne Miller off his line. That misjudgment left him stranded, but overlapping Julio Martinez, under pressure from the recovering Wolfe, chipped the ball over the unguarded goal.

Failure to threaten

Meanwhile, the Boyz, despite controlling much of the possession in midfield through the improving holding pair of Jason Morrison and Richard Edwards, failed to consistently threaten El Salvador in attack.

Except when Jermaine 'Teddy' Johnson, Jamaica's most dangerous player of the night, set off on one of his tantalising dribbles to slice open El Salvador, there were few dangers in the first half for either team.

It was the enterprising Johnson who delivered Jamaica's first shot on goal in the 35th minute, controlling a pass from captain Damion Stewart at the top of the penalty box, swiveling quickly, but hitting just wide of the target.

"You can see what Teddy can give us," said Barnes of the midfielder, who was unavailable against Haiti due to suspension. "We know he is a fantastic player."

Johnson, who plays professionally in England for Championship club Sheffield Wednesday, said he felt duty-bound to take charge.

"I'm the senior player on the team so I just tried to do my thing," he said. "So I tried to make the other players base off me."

Three minutes later, Jamaica's best chance was snuffed out by brilliant goalkeeping from El Salvador's Miguel Montes. Following a neat build-up down the left flank, striker Nicholas Addlery watched in agony as his well-directed header from Wolfe's cross was tipped around the far post.

Squandered chance

Another chance was squandered just before half-time when Roland Dean made a pass to Navion Boyd, who had cut inside the box. But he booted wide of the far post.

Dean could have atoned for his club teammate's mistake 10 minutes into the second half, but after collecting a flick-on by Addlery and easing past a defender, his shot was deflected for a corner.

Five minutes later, Johnson capped another quickfire dribble with a shot straight to Montes.

El Salvador, which continue CONCACAF World Cup final-round qualifiers this weekend, and are drawn in the same Gold Cup group as Jamaica, found it hard to shake loose from the Boyz's aggression, which earned them three cautions on the night.

"Jamaica's physical status helped them," said de los Cobos. "They pressured in the midfield."

Best opportunities

The Cuscatlecos' best opportunities were usually gifted by Jamaica.

"The chances they created were when we were slack in our passing," Barnes said. "We gave the ball away in our own area or in our own half and then they created one or two chances."

One such blunder presented El Salvador with the best chance of the match in the 77th minute. But Martinez's pinpoint cross was headed wide by substitute Rodolfo Zelaya from close range.

Still, it was substitute Oraine Simpson who should have clinched the win for the Boyz, five minutes before the final whistle. Johnson sent him clear on the right after a good build-up by Jamaica, but Simpson shot straight to Montes to preserve the stalemate.


JAMAICA: Dwayne Miller, Eric Vernon (Oraine Simpson, 76th), Adrian Reid, Rafe Wolfe, Navion Boyd (Wolry Wolfe, 76th), Roland Dean (Keammar Daley, 81st), Nicholas Addlery (Devon Hodges, 67th), Damion Stewart, Jason Morrison, Richard Edwards and Jermaine Johnson.

SUBSTITUTES NOT USED: Shawn Sawyers, Dicoy Williams, Andrae Campbell and Michael Campbell.

EL SALVADOR: Miguel Montes, Manuel Salazar, Reynaldo Hernandez (Deris Umanzor, 88th), Victor Turcios, Alez Escobar (captain), Julio Martinez, Oscar Jiminez (Eliseo Quintanilla, 46th), Romeo Monteagudo (Salvador Coreas, 46th), Dennis Alas (Rodolfo Zelaya, 76th), William Torres Alegria (Osael Romero, 60th) and William Reyes (Rudis Corrales, 76th).

SUBSTITUTES NOT USED: Benji Villalobos, Marvin Gonzalez, Luis Hernandez, Mardoqueo Henriquez and Lester Blanco.


Jamaica: Richard Edwards (21st); Rafe Wolfe (78th) and Jason Morrison (91-plus).

El Salvador: None.

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