Jamaica rallies with three second-half goals to beat Canada on away goals rule

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TORONTO — Jamaica defeated Canada 3-2 on a controversial late penalty Tuesday, capping a three-goal comeback in a wild second half that turned into a 4-4 aggregate tie and victory for the Reggae Boyz on the away goals rule in the CONCACAF Nations League quarterfinal series.

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The result earns Jamaica a berth in the 2024 Copa America as one of CONCACAF’s six guest teams. Canada now must win a play-in in March to join the field at the South American championship.

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The 45th-ranked Canadian men went into the second leg of the series holding a 2-1 lead over the 55th-ranked Jamaicans from Saturday’s rain-delayed win in Kingston, Jamaica.

Ismael Kone scored in the 69th minute to put Canada ahead after Jamaica pulled even on aggregate on Shamar Nicholson goals in the 63rd and 66th minute. Alphonso Davies had extended Canada’s aggregate lead to 3-1 with a goal in the 25th minute.

Mexican referee Cesar Ramos then pointed to the penalty spot in the 75th minute after the ball hit Stephen Eustaquio’s arm. It seemed a harsh call with the Canadian midfielder trying to get his arm down to his side to avoid contact.

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The ruling survived video review and Bobby Reid slotted the penalty home in the 78th minute. Seven minutes later, Jamaica’s Demarai Gray was sent off for a second yellow card, adding to the drama.

The Jamaicans held on for nine minutes of stoppage time.

The Jamaican defence had trouble all evening containing Canada’s strike force of Davies, Jonathan David, Cyle Larin and Tajon Buchanan. But the Reggae Boyz’ attack found its teeth in the second half.

Davies opened the scoring by capping a rapid-fire counterattack.

Kone drove up the field and found Richie Laryea on the left with a pass that hit a defender but still found its target. Laryea sent the ball into the penalty box to Davies whose shot was initially blocked by goalkeeper Andre Blake. But the ball bounced up, hit the crossbar and dropped in for a goal, sending Davies off to the corner flag to celebrate his 16th goal for Canada.

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Jamaica came out for the second half with purpose and cut the aggregate lead to one goal in the 62nd minute. Damion Lowe dispossessed Eustaquio and sent the ball to Nicholson, who hammered a shot past Milan Borjan.

Nicholson, who also scored in the first leg, then made it 2-1, knocking home a low cross to cap a Jamaica counterattack. The Canadian players protested in vain that Jamaica had fouled Kone in winning the ball back.

Kone took his revenge three minutes later with a glancing header off a Davies cross.

Jamaica joins the 11th-ranked U.S. and No. 44 Panama in the Nations League final four, set for March, and as Copa America guest teams next June. No. 12 Mexico looked to turn aside a 2-0 deficit at the hands of No. 78 Honduras at Tuesday’s late game at Mexico City’s Azteca Stadium.

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Canada joins the other quarterfinal losers in a single-match elimination play-ins in March to decide the two final CONCACAF entries in the 16-team Copa America to be hosted by the United States.

Making the Copa America field means facing elite opposition from outside CONCACAF, which covers North and Central America and the Caribbean. It’s something the Canadians desperately need ahead of co-hosting the 2026 World Cup.

The 10 CONMEBOL entries at Copa America feature seven teams currently ranked ahead of Canada, including World Cup champion Argentina (No. 1) and Brazil (No. 3).

The Canadian men went into the game undefeated in a record 17 home matches (15-0-2) since a 3-0 loss to Mexico in March 2016 in a World Cup qualifier at Vancouver. Canada last played at BMO Field in June when it tied Guadeloupe 2-2 in Gold Cup play.

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Canada’s record was even better at BMO Field (15-0-7), dating back to a 2-0 loss to Peru in September 2010.

It was a damp evening at BMO Field with the mercury at five degrees Celsius, feeling like two degrees, for the evening kickoff.

Mauro Biello, in his second game as interim Canada coach, made two changes with Derek Cornelius and Alistair Johnston coming in for Steven Vitoria and Sam Adekugbe. Borjan continued as Canada captain, earning his 80th cap.

Jamaica was without West Ham star forward Michail Antonio, injured in Saturday’s opening leg. But Gray, who plays in Saudi Arabia for Al-Ettifaq, returned to the lineup after missing the first game through injury.

The Jamaica starting 11 featured seven English-based players including Leon Bailey (Aston Villa), Ethan Pinnock (Brentford) and Reid (Fulham).

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Canada started brightly and came close in the ninth minute when Buchanan’s cross almost found Davies at the far post. But Blake acrobatically got a leg to the ball first.

Blake made another highlight-reel kick save on Larin from close range after Jamaica failed to clear the ball. The Philadelphia Union ‘keeper, a three-time MLS goalkeeper of the year who celebrated his 33rd birthday Tuesday, needed treatment after the play but continued on.

Bailey, who hit the goalpost on Saturday, saw his shot hit the Canadian crossbar in the 48th minute as Jamaica came close.

Nicholson was yellow-carded in the 55th minute for leaving a foot in as Borjan cleared the ball. The Canada goalkeeper went down in pain, clutching his ankle but kept playing.

Jamaica’s Lowe was then booked for scything down Eustaquio.

The U.S. and Panama secured their Copa America qualification on Monday.

Canada came into the game with an 11-6-7 all-time record against the Reggae Boyz, clinching World Cup qualification last time they met at BMO Field in a 4-0 win in March 2022.

The Nations League finals are set for March 21-24 at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas.

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This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 21, 2023

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