Jermaine Taylor in commanding form for Jamaica. Photo: digicelfootball.com
STADE RIVIERE PILOTE, Martinique — Jamaica started the defence of their Digicel Caribbean Cup title by outclassing Antigua and Barbuda in wet and windy conditions in Martinique in the opening games of Group I of the Finals.
The Reggae Boyz, competing in their first game of the 2010 Digicel Caribbean Cup, started brightly but were in a game against a lively and energetic Antiguan side who did not seem to be daunted by their opponents.
That confidence was soon dented, however, when after only 14 minutes play Dane Richards turned the ball into the path of Luton Shelton, who had the easiest of tasks by placing the ball past Decastro with a confident sidefoot into the Antiguan net.
five minutes later, Richards almost made it 2, when the pacey striker knocked the ball over the advancing Decastro after a long ball had put him through, only for Dublin to show his pace by outsprinting the Jamaican striker to clear what would have been a certain second goal for the Reggae Boyz.
The reigning champions looked to stamp their authority on this game and always looked the more likely to extend their lead as their pace and quick passing looked as if they would undo Antigua on a few more occasions at least.
On 37 minutes, a long ball over the top from Shaun Francis allowed Luton Shelton to race clear and, when confronted by keeper Decastro, he cleverly cut back across the retreating defenders and slotted home to make it 2-0.
Three minutes later and the Reggae Boyz were three up. This time Dane Richards was the scorer after another through ball caught the Antiguan defence flat once again and yet again the Jamaican striker took his opportunity at the first time of asking.
Antigua were given a lifeline at the start of the second half when substitute Gason Gregory, on the pitch for only 3 minutes, made an immediate impact when his thunderous free kick from 30 yards flew past a bewildered Dwayne Miller, who could only palm at the thunderbolt but not prevent it crashing into the back of his net.
Antigua’s confidence now rose ten-fold and they took to their opponents with a newfound purpose. On 55 minutes, Byers looked odds on to pull another back for Antigua as he charged down on Jamaica’s goal only for a wonderful one handed flying save from Miller that turned the ball out for a corner preventing a second for the underdogs.
Antigua continued to play with purpose and were testing the Jamaican defence more and more, with Byers growing in confidence after a wicked curling effort just flew past the post.
Richards then broke away on 66 minutes and with two defenders to beat, his trickery and pace got him around those but, when faced with just the keeper, seemed to rush his shot and blasted over the bar, when he seemed odds on to score a wonder goal.
The game moved equally between both ends for the remainder of the game with Antigua certainly looking more purposeful and were probably ruing those lacklustre defensive frailties for a few mad moments in the first half, which were now looking so costly to them.
Jamaica saw out the dying moments pinned back and while they were on the back foot they were comfortable enough to ensure that the three points were secured as they ended their opening encounter of the Digicel Cup 2010 top of their Group I here in Martinique.
13. Dwayne Miller 2 Richard Edwards 4 Shavar Thomas (Captain) 6 Jermaine Taylor 7 Lovel Palmer 10 Keammar Daley (5. O’Brian Woodbine 74 mins) 11 Dane Richards (8. Eric Vernon 81 mins) 13 Dwayne Miller 15 Shaun Francis 17 Rodolph Austin (18 Keneil Moodie 90 mins) 19 Adrian Reid 21 Luton Shelton
Coach: Theodore Whitmore
Antigua & Barbuda:
18 Keita Decastro 5 Dave Carr 6 Joshua Parker 12 Justin Cochrane 13 Kieran Murtagh 14 Randolph Burton (2. Ranja Christian 70 mins) 17 George Dublin (Captain) 19 Martin McCoy 20 Akeem Thomas (8. Quinton Griffith 90 mins) 11 Jamie Thomas (7. Gason Gregory 46 mins) 16 Peter Byers
Coach: Rowan Benjamin
Referee: Enrico Wijngaarde ( Suriname)
Assistant Referee 1: Ricardo Louisville (Suriname)
Assistant Referee 2: Egbert Paesch (Aruba)
Match Commissioner: Patrick Beckles (Barbados)