Canada scores late to beat Jamaica in 1st leg of CONCACAF Nations League quarterfinal

The wait was worth it for Canada as Stephen Eustaquio scored late in the second half to give the men's soccer team a 2-1 win over Jamaica on Saturday in the CONCACAF Nations League quarterfinal match at Independence Park in Kingston.

Stephen Eustaquio notches winner; Series finale scheduled for Tuesday in Toronto

Canadian men's soccer player battles for possession of the ball during first leg of CONCACAF Nations League quarterfinal in Kingston, Jamaica.
Canada's Stephen Eustaquio, right, fights for the ball with Jamaica's Joel Latibeaudiere during a CONCACAF Nations League quarterfinal match at the National stadium in Kingston, Jamaica on Saturday. Eustaquio scored late in the second half for a 2-1 Canadian win. (Collin Reid/Associated Press)

The Canadian men's soccer team dealt with the chaos their coach predicted could happen and came away with a 2-1 away win over Jamaica Saturday in a CONCACAF Nations League quarterfinal match at Independence Park in Kingston.

Stephen Eustaquio broke a 1-1 draw with a goal late in the second half to give the men their first win in Jamaica in 35 years.

"We wanted to come out of here with a result," said interim coach Mauro Biello. "So, the first phase, mission accomplished for us.

"It was a competitive game. We knew coming in here it would be a very difficult with the quality of players on their team."

Jonathan David scored the other goal for Canada. Shamar Nicholson tied the game for Jamaica in the 56th minute on a disputed goal.

Biello told a news conference prior to the game that "how we manage the chaos" would be a factor in determining the match's outcome.

The game was originally scheduled for Friday night but was postponed until Saturday due to heavy rain. It was 28 C at kickoff at 10:30 a.m. local time with humidity around 78 per cent. The pitch appeared heavy and sticky, affecting the way the ball moved.

Canada, ranked 45th in the world, didn't fold when the No. 55 Reggae Boyz tied the game on a questionable goal.

"Credit Canada to fight through it," said Biello, the former assistant coach who earned his first victory since being put in charge after John Herdman left to take over Toronto FC. "It was very difficult, hard conditions. Very hot.

"It was really good character from the group."

The second game in the two-match, aggregate series will be Tuesday at Toronto's BMO Field.

The winner of the series moves on to the CONCACAF Nations League finals next March, as well as securing their ticket to Copa America as guest teams at the South American championship.

WATCH | Canada tops Jamaica in CONCACAF Nations League quarterfinal play:

Eustaquio lifts Canada over Jamaica in opening leg of CONCACAF Nations League quarterfinal

13 days ago
Duration 1:11
Featured VideoThe Canadian men's soccer team claims a 2-1 away win over Jamaica in the opening match of their CONCACAF Nations League quarterfinal series. Stephen Eustaquio scores the game-winning goal in the 85th minute. The teams will wrap up the two-game, aggregate series on Tuesday in Toronto.

Fullback Richie Laryea set up the winning goal, showing his speed with a nice run down the side. He passed the ball back into the box and Eustaquio made no mistake.

Forward Cyle Larin did the work on David's goal in first-half extra time. Larin took a long ball into the Jamaican zone, made a pretty spin to get away from two defenders, then sent a pass across the front of the net that David tapped home for his 26th international goal.

Nicholson tied the game when he got behind a surprised Canadian defence on a quick pass from Daniel Johnson and beat goalkeeper Milan Borjan. The offside flag went up but the goal was ruled good after video review.

Canadian players argued the whistle had not blown to start play but referee Tori Penso let the play stand.

"They took a quick free kick and were able to catch us," said Biello.

"Sometimes in those moments you have to be a little more focused. Credit to the team to fight through it and come back and score a great second goal."

Biello said the experience Canada gained during the gruelling qualification process before the 2022 World Cup helped the team deal with the anxiety created by the long wait Friday night before the game was postponed, then refocusing for a morning match.

"You asked for their experience to come through in these moments," he said. "That's what we saw from the team. It's not easy here and we're very happy to have got the win here."

Canada had a couple of early scoring chances in the match.

In the eighth minute, David sneaked behind the Jamaican defence and fired a shot that goaltender Andre Blake stopped. Late in the half, Larin had a good chance from distance, blasting a ball that a diving Blake got a hand on.

Jamaica's Leon Bailey had two good looks in the first half. In the 15th minute, he fired a ball that just missed the far corner of the net. Later, he hit the crossbar off a corner kick from Bobby De Cordova-Reid.

WATCH | Biello wants to lead Canada into World Cup:

CANMNT interim head coach hoping to coach team at 2026 World Cup

2 months ago
Duration 1:28
Featured VideoCBC Sports’ Devin Heroux speaks to CANMNT interim head coach Mauro Biello about what he hopes he can bring to the job.

The Jamaican side suffered a blow when forward Michail Antonio, who plays for West Ham United, left the match early in the first half with an injury.

Canada, Mexico, the U.S. and Costa Rica were given byes into the final eight of the competition, based on the March 2023 CONCACAF rankings.

Panama, Jamaica, Honduras and Trinidad and Tobago advanced through a qualifying round in the September and October international windows.

The quarterfinal losers have a chance to join them, via a single-match elimination play-in in March that will decide the two remaining slots for CONCACAF entries.

Canada now has a quick turnaround before the home game in Toronto.

"They are very good players on that team," Biello said about Jamaica. "We know they can change the play at any moment.

"We know we have to get the job done, play our way on our home field. We are halfway there."

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