PASADENA, United States – Kemar Lawrence struck late with a brilliant free kick as Jamaica’s Reggae Boyz stunned tournament favourites Mexico 1-0 in a tense semi-final Sunday night, to advance to Wednesday’s final of the CONCACAF Gold Cup.
With the contest at the Rose Bowl locked nil-all and seemingly headed for extra time, Lawrence stepped up in the 88th minute to curl a left-booter past goalkeeper Jesus Corona, and hand the Jamaicans their first win over Mexico in eight Gold Cup meetings.
They will now meet the United States who beat Costa Rica 2-0 in the other semifinal at the AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas.
Reggae Boyz captain and goalkeeper, Andre Blake, again voted Man-of-the-Match for another spectacular performance between the uprights, said organisation had been key to the Caribbean side’s victory.
“It was a great game. Mexico is very good team. You have to come out and be very organised, very patient defensively and we did just that,” the 26-year-old Philadelphia Union custodian said afterwards.
“The guys did a great job. I’m there to do whatever I can to keep my team in the game. Once we stop teams from scoring, we are always close to winning the game so it was great to move on to the finals again.
“We as a group we all believe in each other and that’s the most important thing. We just have to stay hungry, keep fighting and hopefully we can win the entire thing.”
Jamaica, losing finalists to Mexico in the 2015 edition of the Gold Cup, face a massive hurdle in the US in order to clinch their first ever confederation title.
Two years ago, they upset the Americans in Atlanta en route to the final and Blake said they would once again be giving the game their all in the fixture carded for Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara.
“We’re definitely going in [to the final] to do whatever we have to do win the game,” he stressed.
“The US is a very good team so we’ve just got to go in, stick together be organised defensively again and hopefully we can win this game.”
It was Blake’s superb skills which kept Jamaica in the game early as Mexico threatened to overrun them. Twice in quick succession in the 12th minute he pulled off crucial saves, first denying Jesus Dueñas’s shot and then also turning away Erick Torres’s follow-up from close range.
Blake was once again called upon in the 25th minute to keep out a Torres header from point-blank range and in the 65th minute, used all his skill to palm away a long-range free kick frm Jesus Gallardo.
Jamaica, too, had their chances with Jermaine Taylor coming close with a free kick in the 38th minute, second-half substitute Ricardo Morris following up in the 56th minute and Damion Lowe forcing a fine save out of Corona in the 78th.
However, it was New York Red Bulls’ Lawrence who broke the deadlock with time ticking away at the end, calmly sending his 25-yard free kick into the upper left corner.