With the first leg of the 2018 World Cup Qualifiers in Kingston against Nicaragua, one could be forgiven for expecting Jamaica to beat Los Pinoleros without breaking a sweat in the hot Jamaican night. Nicaragua had other plans though, and beat the Reggae Boyz 3-2 in front of a shocked Jamaican crowd.
The match got off to a bad start for Jamaica when New York Red Bulls defender Kemar Lawrence committed a handball in the box. Midfielder Manuel Rosas slotted home the penalty, and Nicaragua took the lead in the fifth minute. A mere three minutes later, a great cross caught the Jamaican defense napping. Jamaica's back line overloaded their right side with three players, and when the cross connected with Carlos Chavarría, he was all alone on the right with the Jamaican left back too far out of position to be effective. Chavarría's shot against the grain caught Philadelphia Union goalkeeper Andre Blake wrong footed, and he could only watch as the ball went in off of the far post.
A terrible pass by the Jamaican midfield was easily intercepted by Nicaraguan midfielder Juan Barrera, who raced down the field toward the end line. A sliding tackle by Jamaican captain Rodolph Austin missed the mark, and Barrera calmly passed the ball across to Luis Galeano, who tapped the ball in past a helpless Blake who was absolutely hung out to dry by the Jamaican defense. Nicaragua was up 3-0 before the 50th minute when there was another scare. Another bad pass by Jamaica led to a Nicaraguan rush, however Blake was able to come off of his line and clear the ball while giving his back line a (much deserved) earful.
Jamaica had their chances, but were very wasteful for the first 60-plus minutes of the match. Crosses in the Nicaraguan box never found their mark, and on the off chance that they did they were usually hit well over the crossbar.
Jamaica's fortunes would change in the 69th minute, when Darren Mattocks made a great run down field, and turned the Nicaraguan defender inside out before hitting a curling shot that Nicaraguan goalkeeper Justo Lorente had no shot at stopping, putting Jamaica on the board. Jamaica pressed hard, and in the 78th minute they'd score again when Adrian Mariappa hit a rebounded ball in a scrum and got the Reggae Boyz within one. Jamaica would have several more chances, but Lorente was up for the challenge, and the match ended with Los Pinoleros winning 3-2.
The second leg of this will be in Managua at 9:30 PM EDT on Tuesday, September 8.