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Pressure piles up on Reggae Boyz

ACTION: Jobi McAnuff representing Jamaica in OCt 2013 (PA)

JAMAICA AND Martinique fought out a thrilling 1-1 to kick-off their respective bids to claim the Caribbean Cup, which increased the pressure on Reggae Boyz head coach Winfried Schäfer.

Darren Mattocks turned on a sixpence inside the box before hammering home to give the hosts the lead on 13 minutes at the Montego Bay Sports Complex on Wednesday evening.

But lively Martinique equalised with a spectacular strike from Yoann Arquin after 29 minutes, which set up an exciting contest in the opening round of four-team Group B.

All four sides are locked in the Group after Antigua & Barbuda drew 2-2 with 2007 Caribbean Cup champions Haiti on Wednesday afternoon.

Schäfer, whose tenure has resulted in a poor set of displays, will be reasonably happy, and before the tie he said: “We need to win, but we cannot afford to lose the first match.”

Louis Marie'ann, Martinique's head coach, predicted a score draw against the Boyz and explained: “It was very important not to start on the wrong foot. A number of our players were born in France but we hadn't played a competitive match with this mix before, so going up against Jamaica was be an important test of our readiness.”

Martinique, who won the 1993 Caribbean Cup courtesy of a penalty shoot-out success over hosts Jamaica, extended their unbeaten run against Jamaica to three games and survived a late rally from the Boyz.

Jamaica looked likely winners after Vancouver Whitecaps' striker Mattocks made the breakthrough with a well-taken goal.

Arquin, who plies his trade for Ross County in Scotland, outpaced the defence to superbly plant the ball in the back of the net just outside the penalty area.

And Jamaica's substitute Jamar loza thought he had grabbed a late winner, only for the Norwich City forward's effort to be ruled offside.

The result left all four teams in the group on one point after Haiti and Antigua & Barbuda had played out a 2-2 draw earlier. Jean Sony Alcenat opened the scoring for Haiti on 23 minutes, Kervens Fils Belfort doubled their lead 13 minutes later. Myles Weston reduced the deficit on 58 minutes and 80 seconds later “Big Pete” Byers equalised.

Jamaica tackled Antigua & Barbuda on Friday, then complete their Group B fixtures on Sunday against Haiti. If Schafer's side fail to progress out of the group, the top two teams qualify for the semi-finals, then Captain Horace Burrell and the Jamaica Football Federation (JFF) will be forced to re-evaluate the German coach's position.

Two years ago the Boyz failed to negotiate their way out of group stages of the Caribbean Cup and missed the opportunity to compete in the lucrative CONCACAF.

In Group A defending champions Cuba kicked off the tournament with a 1-1 stalemate against French Guiana, with favourites Trinidad & Tobago edging past minnows Curacao 3-2.

Jamaica's starting XI:
Blake, Nosworthy, Taylor, Powell (Gray 82), Phillips, Austin, Watson, McAnuff, Richards (Lawrence 70), Mattocks, Brown (Loza 45) Subs: Foster, Edwards, Finlayson, Seaton, Thompson, Grant, Campbell, Kerr

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