Referee Stole the Show as Jamaica and US Played to 1-1 Draw

Costa Rican referee Juan Gabriel Calderon stole the show inside Kingston’s National Stadium on Tuesday evening when he contentiously denied the home side a late winner against the United States in their crucial CONCACAF World Cup Qualifier.

The visitors took an 11th-minute lead through Timothy Weah, the son of a Jamaican mother and former Liberian football great father George, only for the red hot West Ham United striker Michail Antonio to pull his team level through a magnificent long-range strike 11 minutes later.

And during a highly competitive encounter, Jamaican central defender Damion Lowe thought he had given Jamaica a deserved lead and possible winner seven minutes from the full-time whistle when he rose majestically to nod home a Leon Bailey teasing, left-sided corner, only for Calderon to wave the goal off, citing a phantom infringement by the goalscorer on defender Walter Zimmerman.

Lowe, his teammates and fans in the venue were well into their celebration – similar to the scene of 24 years prior, to the date, when the Reggae Boyz gained qualification to the France 1998 World Cup Finals – but were stunned into silence and bemusement when play restarted in the goal area and not at the centre circle.

In other games on Tuesday, Canada edged Mexico 2-1, Panama did likewise to El Salvador, as did Costa Rica staged in a very late win over Honduras.

The result left Jamaica in the sixth position on seven points, as Canada jumped to the top of the points standings with 16 points, one ahead of the US, with Mexico slipping to third place, on 14 points. Panama come next with14 points, as Costa Rica moved up to nine points.

El Salvador remain on six points and Honduras at the bottom on three points.

Jamaica’s head coach Theodore Whitmore thought his side deserved to win the game after falling behind early.

“…I think we should have gone on a win the game,” noted the head coach. “Numerous opportunities were presented and I think we didn’t capitalise.”

Whitmore thought the visitors were gifted their lead but his players responded very well and kept their heads. “We stayed in the game, we managed to equalise,” he added.

For American coach Gregg Berhalter, his team had difficulties coping with the pace and power of the Jamaicans.

“They just executed the long balls really well, played very direct and made it difficult. Overall, Jamaica is a physical team and they were in desperation mode to get a point or three points and it was good to limit them to one.

Played in front of 4,100 spectators in cool conditions, the talented American side struck first when Weah squeezed his shot past Andre Blake as the visitors took early control of the game.

But Antonio had other ideas and like he did when coming off the bench last Friday against El Salvador, he picked up a ball midway the US half near to the left flank, turned inside his marker, US captain Tyler Adams, before unleashing a 30-yard piledriver which gave goalkeeper Zack Steffen of Manchester City no chance as the ball nestled into the net.

The visitors continued to control possession of the game, but the home side, playing better in the second half, was always a threat on the counter via a direct route from the back.

Midway the second half the ineffective Bobby Reid was presented with a gift when the ball bounced kindly to him inside the six-yard box off a Bailey fumble at the back post, but the Fulham striker skied his left-footed blast well over the goal frame, much to the chagrin of those at the venue and in television land. It appeared harder to miss than score.

Then at the death, Lowe rose above Zimmerman to skillfully guide a deft header out of the reach of Steffen and into the goal, but as he wheeled away in celebration, Calderon called a foul on the play to let the Americans off the hook and deny the Jamaicans what should have been a victory.

The ninth round of games is slated for the month end of January 2022.


Concacaf World Cup Qualifying Final Round Points Standings

Teams                  P       W      D       L        Gf      Ga     Gd     Pts

Canada                8       4       4       0       13     5       8       16

United States      8       4       3       1       12     5       7       15

Mexico                8       4       2       2       11     6       5       14

Panama               8       4       2       2       11     9       2       14

Costa Rica           8       2       3       3       6       7       -1      9

Jamaica               8       1       4       3       6       10     -4      7

El Salvador          8       1       3       4       4       10     -6      6

Honduras            8       0       3       5       5       15     -10    3

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