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Polished Panama terrorise Reggae Boyz

BEATEN: Jamaica's Winifried Schafer

JAMAICA WERE brushed aside by pumped up Panama in Kingston, with only a single goal in each half flattering the hosts in Friday's World Cup Qualifier.

Armando Cooper put Panama ahead on 43 minutes, a long overdue opener for the fluid visitors, with an own goal by defender Wes Morgan seven minutes into the second half sealing success.

And to add insult to injury, manager Hernan Darlo Gomez guided his “Canal Men” to their first victory in 90 minutes since beating Costa Rica in March's friendly on home soil.

Winfried Schäfer, the Jamaica head coach, will be as distraught as his out-of-sorts players after this demolition job by the team world ranked no65 in their opening match of the round-robin four-team Group B competition.

Yet Jamaica have never really fared well against the “Canal Men”. They have only won twice against the Central Americans in 14 competitive games spanning 46 years, and last night the Reggae Boyz lacked any rhythm as it was a case of men versus Boyz.

But Schäfer has an opportunity to repair the damage when he takes his Boyz to Haiti to continue their journey for a place in the World Cup finals. In the Gold Cup quarter-finals Jamaica saw off Haiti 1-0, and will be aiming to repeat that feat.

In Group B, which has been nicknamed by some media as “the Group of Death”, the Boyz will be vying to bag three crucial points in Port-au-Prince but so will Haiti who were narrowly beaten 1-0 by Costa Rica in San Jose on Friday.

At least Schäfer returns to the bench for Tuesday's tie, having been banished to the stands against Panama following his one-match ban for unsporting behaviour against a match official in September's tie in Nicaragua.

Assistant Head Coach Miguel Coley, who took charge from the touchline on Friday night, admitted: “Panama is a good team, in midfield they play narrow and the defenders play a little bit wider. They are a very aggressive and physical team.”

And with ticket prices in the grandstands as high as J$6,500 (£35.70), fans failed to pack Kingston's National Football Stadium — which was probably just as well for the Boyz after such another dismal display.

Defensive-minded Panama were missing their influential skipper Torres Ramon and veteran striker Blas Perez, yet they didn't show any signs of missing key players and dictated play from the first whistle against the shell-shocked hosts.

The Boyz lacked vision and nous as the “Canal Men” ran rings around them, Panama only rewarded for their sheer dominance with an overdue strike just before half time from Cooper.

The midfielder's free-kick bamboozled keeper Duwayne Kerr, beaten by the neat curling effort that was rifled over his head and into the far side of the gaping goalmouth.

With the Boyz having gone into the break clearly on a hiding to nothing it was no surprise when Panama doubled their lead on 52 minutes, albeit through an own goal.

Alberto Quintero's cross from the left went into a packed penalty area, only for defender Wes Morgan to have the last touch as the ball found its way into the back of the net.

With the visitors constantly terrorising the Boyz, it was the usual tactics from Schäfer of packing the defence and then go on the counter-attack at every opportunity.

But it was more like Sunday League football from the Boyz, who despite fielding a very strong team (on paper at least) produced a game of hit and hope after falling further behind.

Their neat passing game displayed at the Gold Cup in Chile was clearly absent, the creativity of the midfielders was absent and more often than not players fumbled the ball away instead of making quick decisions.

And the Panama defence remained resolute to any sign of a goalmouth threat. Darren Mattocks, who had scored in Jamaica’s past four competitive games, looked timid alongside Giles Barnes and both panicked when given open field.

Morgan, who missed the two-legged tie against Nicaragua to reach the group stages, said: “The spirit is still the same and we're here to do a job, but in Qualifiers you can't take any team lightly.”

Schäfer added: “We have a very strong group — the strongest group in the qualification with Panama, Costa Rica and Haiti.”

The Boyz have long lacked a consistent goalscorer despite an abundance of attacking talent in the squad, with no goals from Friday and in their recent one-sided defeat to South Korea it is surely time for Schäfer to blood at least one of his strikers in Haiti on Tuesday.

The squad travel at 9am local time from Kingston to Miami before a connecting flight to Port-au-Prince, where there will be plenty of fighting talk as the Boyz need to carve out a positive result against their near neighbours.

Schäfer admitted: “It will be very difficult, but we have to be disciplined and need everybody to concentrate 100 per cent on football.”

JAMAICA: Kerr; Hector, Lawrence, Morgan, Mariappa; Austin, McCleary (Powell 70), McAnuff, Watson; Mattocks, Barnes. Subs: Blake, Thompson, Phillips, Williamson, Clennon, Dawkins

PANAMA: Calderon; Baloy, Machado, Henriquez, Gomez; Godoy, Quintero; Cooper, Pimentel. Subs: Mejia, Davis, Pinzon, Buitrago, Addles, Nurse, Blackburn

Qualifying 4th Round (Round-Robin)

Jamaica's remaining home matches – Costa Rica (25 March 2016), Haiti (6 September 2016)

Jamaica's away matches – Haiti (17 November), Costa Rica (29 March 2016), Panama (2 September 2016)

Group A results: Canada 1 Honduras 0, Mexico 3 El Salvador 0

Group B results: Costa Rica 1 Haiti 0, Jamaica 0 Panama 2

Group C results: Guatemala 1 Trinidad & Tobago 2, USA 6 St. Vincent & Grenadines 1

Final Qualifying Round (Round-Robin)

Top two teams from each group will play in a six-team mini-league, with the top three automatically qualifying and the fourth-placed team moving into an inter-Continental play-off.

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