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Jamaica defeats Nicaragua, advances to CONCACAF group stage

The Philadelphia Union's Andre Blake kept a clean sheet as the Reggae Boyz overcame a 3-2 deficit on the aggregate, pulling out a thriller in the waning minutes of regulation against Nicaragua.

John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

Jamaica looked certain to be out of the 2018 World Cup before 2015 was over with, however a last-minute goal by Simon Dawkins put the Reggae Boyz through to the group stage, as they defeated Nicaragua 2-0  (4-3 on the aggregate) in front of a record 18,000-plus in Managua.

The Vancouver Whitecaps Darren Mattocks got Jamaica on the board in the thirteenth minute after he and ex-Reading United and Colorado Rapids forward Deshorn Brown beat the Nicaraguan defense, and Brown slotted the ball back to him. Nicaraguan goalkeeper Justo Lorente was helpless to recover, and Mattocks buried it.

The match was back and forth for the most part, with Jamaica pressing the Nicaraguans deep and Nicaragua content to kick it deep and chase it, hoping to create mismatches. Jamaica stood firm however, and was not plagued by the defensive lapses that allowed the Nicaraguans to score three goal on Friday night. The Philadelphia Union's Andre Blake played a solid game for Jamaica. He made the saves he had to make, and looked confident earning a clean sheet on the night.

As time passed in the match, there was a real sense in the crowd that the Nicaraguans would complete the upset, however Derby County's Simon Dawkins had other ideas. Subbed on for Preston North End's Chris Humphrey in the 83rd, Dawkins smashed home the game winner on a poor clearance from the Nicaraguan defense in the 89th minute.

Jamaica will now be in CONCACAF's Group B with Costa Rica, Panama, and Haiti. The top two will progress on to the hex where they'll face the top two teams from Group A (Mexico, Honduras, El Salvador, and Canada) and Group C (United States, Trinidad and Tobago, St. Vincent & Grenadines, and Guatemala).