Jamaica’s Reggae Boyz agonizingly conceded an 89th-minute goal as their quest to reach next year’s World Cup in Qatar began with a 2-1 defeat to CONCACAF powerhouses Mexico late Thursday.
The Caribbean side appeared destined for a share of the points after Shamar Nicholson’s 65th strike cancelled out Alexis Vega’s opener in the 50th minute at the Azteca Stadium.
But with time ticking away, Henry Martin capitalized on a lapse in Jamaica’s defense to snatch the winner, leaving the visitors empty-handed.
Jamaica will have little time to recuperate, however, as they fly home to host Panama at the National Stadium on Sunday.
The first 20 minutes of Thursday’s contest was a scrappy affair with neither side able to assert control.
Norman Campbell got off a weak left-footed shot in the 23rd minute after getting free down the left but Mexico responded when full back Jorge Sanchez put a cross in at the far post only for Rogelio Funes Mori to muff the diving header in the 26th.
Campbell was denied from close range in the 35th minute by goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa before Sebastián Córdova sent a low drive just wide of the far post three minutes later.
Goalkeeper Andre Blake then kept Jamaica in the contest by pulling off two key saves inside the last five minutes of the half, first denying Luis Romo before keeping out a long-range drive from Vega.
Jamaica’s resistance cracked five minutes following the resumption, however, when Vega finally beat Blake after finding space on the edge of the 18-yard box to fire in a low shot.
Center-back Damion Lowe headed down Roberto Alvarado’s cross but the ball fell at Vega’s feet and he rounded Alvas Powell and Cory Burke to get off his shot.
Alvarado nearly doubled the lead a minute later but he shot wide with only Blake to beat and Mexico threatened again in the 54th when Sanchez’s weak header was easily saved.
Jamaica suffered a huge let-off in the 63rd when Alvarado struck the post from close range with Blake beaten but equalised soon afterwards against the run of play.
A diagonal ball from deep on the right side of midfield caught the Mexico defense napping and Sanchez headed down the pass into the path of Nicholson, who swept home a clinical finish from 14 yards.
But Mexico had the final say, however, Cesar Montes picking out Romo whose flick found Martin on the edge of the box, for the 81st minute substitute to curl past Blake into the upper right-hand corner.