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Mattock's on target to help JA reach Gold Cup quarter-final

HOMAGE: A fan pays tribute to his team

DARREN MATTOCKS' controversial spot-kick cancelled out El Salvador’s strike to earn Jamaica a Gold Cup quarter-final berth following an uninspired 1-1 draw in Texas on Sunday evening.

Portland Timbers hot-shot Mattocks, who appears to have the magical touch whenever he dons a Jamaica jersey at the Gold Cup, scored on 64 minutes to earn a share of the spoils after Nelson Bonilla was on target after quarter-of-an-hour.

And with Mexico seeing off Dutch-speaking minnows Curaçao 2-0, Jamaica's Reggae finished runners-up in Group C to earn a quarter-final tie against ever-improving Canada at the University of Phoenix Stadium in Arizona on July 20.

With Jamaica already guaranteed a quarter-final berth prior to kick-off, following Panama's 3-0 thumping of Martinique on Saturday, head coach Theodore Whitmore was able to experiment and opted to go on the attack with a 4-3-3 formation

Despite having survived their initial two matches in Group C, a tricky 2-0 triumph over newly-crowned Caribbean Cup champions Curaçao followed by a dour scoreless draw against mighty Mexico, the Reggae Boyz were in a position to gamble in their final group game against El Salvador.

Impressive Andre Blake was back between the sticks to marshall the same back four as the last outing against Mexico. But the familiar trio of midfielders were left short as Jamaica opted to kick-off with three strikers - Corey Burke, Mattocks and Romario Williams.

The 65,000-capacity AlamoDome indoor arena, former home of the National Basketball Association's San Antonio Spurs, came to life when frontal Bonilla broke the deadlock on 15 minutes.

Ruben Marroquin perfectly prised open the defence with a throughball for the industrious Bonilla to confidently tuck past Blake from a tight angle.

El Salvador were dominating play and calling the shots, but during a busy opening half the Boyz came closest to snatching an equaliser on 37 minutes - only for keeper Derby Carrillo to deny Williams' close-range effort with a spectacular diving save.

And busy Blake, arguably Jamaica's saviour in all three group games, kept the Boyz in the hunt on the hour-mark to prevent a stinging left-footed effort from lively striker Rodolfo Zelaya.

This close shave jolted the Boyz, and from their next attack Narciso Orellana was yellow carded for handball with a contentious penalty awarded. Mattocks showed calmness and maturity to make no mistake from the spot to beat US-born Carrillo and lift Jamaica's spirits.

Whitmore made an immediate change, bringing on the fresh legs of Michael Binns in place of Oneil Fisher, yet the Boyz seemed laboured after this alteration as the forwards lacked any sign of service to add to their tally.

The Boyz move on with an unbeaten record, despite having failed to ignite the tournament with the same high-quality displays as their run to the 2015 Gold Cup final, and the knockout stages. Canada, who they face in a September friendly in Toronto, are their next opponent.

Whitmore remains ambitious about the Boyz progressing and admitted:

"What we want is to keep improving as a team, in terms of performance, both individually and collectively.

"We need to maintain our discipline defensively and still have areas that we need to work on - but with a bit more time it will happen."

JAMAICA: Blake; Lowe, Taylor, Powell, Lawrence; Watson, Lambert, Fisher (Binns, 65 mins); Burke (46 mins), Williams, Mattocks. Subs not used: Nicholson, Campbell, Harriott, Grandison, Morris, Richie, Francis, Miller, Hyatt, Johnson.

Gold Cup quarter-final details:

July 19 - Costa Rica v Panama

July 19 - USA v El Salvador

July 20 - Mexico v Honduras

July 20 - Jamaica v Canada

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