Gray's all-important strike lifts Reggae Boyz over Honduras and atop Group B in League A action

By September 08, 2023
Jamaica's Reggae Boyz celebrate the all-important goal. Jamaica's Reggae Boyz celebrate the all-important goal. Concacaf

Jamaica...1

Gray (64th)
 
Honduras...0
 
Demarai Gray ensured Jamaica's senior Reggae Boyz opened their 2023 Concacaf Nations League account on a winning note, as his all-important strike edged Honduras 1-0 in a lukewarm affair that fell way below expectations at the National Stadium on Friday.
 
Gray, who recently completed a move from English Premier League (EPL) outfit Everton to Al-Ettifaq in the Saudi Pro League, fired home his third international goal in the 64th minute to secure all three points for the Reggae Boyz, putting them in pole position to complete a top two finish in Group B of League A.
 
The win has Heimir Hallgrimsson's side on three points, two ahead of Cuba, Haiti, Grenada and Suriname, who all have one point each after playing out stalemates in their respective opening encounters.
 
Cuba and Haiti were goalless in their contest played in the Dominican Republic, while Grenada and Suriname were 1-1 in St George’s.
 
At the National Stadium in Jamaica, the Reggae Boyz started positively and threatened with their first build up, but Dujuan "Whisper" Richards couldn't find space to get a shot off. 
 
Honduras followed up with a quick response, as Luis Palma fired a warning shot from just over 18 yards out, which went straight in the arms of Jahmali Waite, who was given starting duties in place of front-line goalkeeper and captain Andre Blake, out sick.
 
The Jamaicans thought they had the breakthrough in the fifth minute, but Bobby Reid's goal was from an offside position.
 
From there, the tempo of the game dropped with both teams looking scrappy when in possession, the Jamaicans in particular, as their passing and, by extension, movements off the ball was woefully lacking.
 
That disconnect between Jamaica's defence and attack allowed Honduras some semblance of ascendancy and the visitors almost made it count in the 20th when Palma again tried his luck from a distance, but again found Waite in the way as the young goalkeeper took flight to tip over the crossbar. 
 
The Boyz looked their best in the latter stages of the first half and almost found the go-ahead goal in 44th when Richards's stinging left-footer from just outside the 18-yard box came back off the right upright, as they went into the break goalless.
 
It was more of the same on the resumption with the Jamaicans struggling to find cohesion, while Honduras tried to play their game. 
 
The Central Americans should have gone ahead in the 57th when Palma found himself in one-on-one situation with Waite, but his delicate chip shot just went over the crossbar.
 
That missed opportunity later proved costly, as Gray who was playing his first game on home soil, gave the Jamaicans something to celebrate.
 
A tidy build up from the back orchestrated by Ethan Pinnock, found Reid, who played off a one-time pass that sent Gray on his way and the fleet-footed player left his marker before firing past Edrick Menjivar in goal for Honduras.
 
Though they tried, Honduras couldn't find the elusive equaliser, as the Jamaicans held firm defensively for the win.
 
Gray, in a post-game press conference admitted that it wasn't the most polished performance by the team but welcomed the three points. 
 
"It's good to get the winning goal my first time back home. It wasn't the best performance, but we got the three points which was important," he said.
 
Teams: Jamaica -Jahmali Waite, Damion Lowe, Amari'i Bell, Ethan Pinnock, Javain Brown (Tayvon Gray 66th), Leon Bailey, Bobby Reid (Kevon Lambert 77th), Demarai Gray (Renaldo Cephas 82nd), Dujuan Richards (Shemar Nicholson 66th), Joel Latibeaudiere, Kasey Palmer (Daniel Johnson 66th)
 
Subs not used: Coniah Boyce-Clarke, Kevon Lambert, Dishon Bernard, Daniel Johnson, Demario Phillips, Romario Williams, Adrian Mariappa, Renaldo Cephas, Gregory Leigh
 
Booked: Latibeaudiere (68th), Reid (68th), T Gray (90+2)
 
Honduras -Edrick Menjivar, Devron Garcia, Luis Vega (Riky Zapata 65th), Bryan Acosta (Jorge Benguche 77th), Joseph Rosales (Alexander Lopez 89th), Antony Lozano, Maylor Nunez, Andy Najar (65th), Denil Maldonado, Luis Palma, Deybi Flores
 
Subs not used: Juergen Garcia, Marlon Licona, Raul Santos, Jorge Alvarez, David Ruiz-Ochoa, Carlos Pineda, Daniel Carter, Franklin Flores
 
Booked: Acosta (29th), Vega (38th), Maldonado (39th), Rodriguez (73rd), Zapata (74th)
 
Referee: Daniel Quintero (MEX)
Assistant referees: Ibrahim Martinez (MEX); Pablo Hernandez (MEX)
Fourth official: Victor Carcores (MEX)
Match Commissary: Egbert Lacle (ARU)
Sherdon Cowan

Sherdon Cowan is a five-time award-winning journalist with 10 years' experience covering sports.

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