Garath McCleary (yellow jersey) scored for Jamaica in its CONCACAF Gold Cup win over El Salvador on July 14, 2015, in Toronto, Canada. (Photo: Mexsport)
TORONTO -- Garath McCleary’s second-half strike propelled 10-man Jamaica to a 1-0 victory over El Salvador in the first-ever CONCACAF Gold Cup game played in Canada on Tuesday at BMO Field.
With that result, the Reggae Boyz (2-1-0, 7 points) ensured themselves the Group B title, while El Salvador (0-2-1, 2 points) still has hopes of advancing to the quarterfinals as one of two best third-place teams.
The goal came against the run of play as McCleary struck for his second goal of the tournament in the 72nd minute. Darren Mattocks won possession on the right side of the box and squared back to the advancing Jobi McAnuff, whose shot was blocked by goalkeeper Derby Carrillo. The ball fell on the left side to a grateful McCleary, who slotted home from close range.
The Caribbean champion was forced to play the final nine minutes of the game with 10 men after Mattocks was sent off for a second bookable offense.
In a contest that featured few clear-cut chances, Jamaica needed to pull out the stops against a determined El Salvador side that looked threatening throughout, especially in the first half.
The Central Americans tested the Jamaican defense in the third minute, when Jaime Alas played a ball to Pablo Punyed, who put through Irvin Herrera down the left wing. Herrera’s shot from just inside the box was straight at goalkeeper Dwayne Miller.
El Salvador almost went ahead 10 minutes later. Punyed evaded his marker, only to head captain Andres Flores’ right-wing cross over the crossbar from 12-yards out.
In the 30th minute, a 25-yard free kick by Jamaica’s Kemar Lawrence forced a low save from Carillo. McAnuff scuffed the rebound across the face of goal with not a single defender in sight.
In the early stages of the second half, Jamaica was put under siege. Substitute goalkeeper Ryan Thompson came up with superb saves to deny Punyed and Flores within a span of seconds in the 58th minute.
• Jamaica lost two players to injuries in the first half as defender Jermaine Taylor (9’) and Miller (24’) both were forced from the field.
• Jamaica is unbeaten in seven of its last eight CONCACAF Gold Cup games (6W-1D-1L).
• Jamaica improved to 3-0-0 all-time against El Salvador in Gold Cup matches.