DEVON WILLIAMS and Shamar Nicholson grabbed a goal apiece to make it a hat-trick of CONCACAF Nations League (CNL) triumphs, as Jamaica stuttered past Aruba 2-0 in Kingston on Saturday (Oct 12).
Despite the absence of this year’s new recruits Leon Bailey and Bobby Reid through injury, the Reggae Boyz dominated minnows Aruba inside the virtually empty National Stadium – but failed to turn their superiority into goals
Nicholson, Jamaica’s livewire striker, should have scored more and was guilty of missing a penalty before his last-gasp strike sealed success.
World-ranked 195 Aruba showed tons of resilience after Williams broke the deadlock with his deflected drive into the bottom right corner on 13 minutes, to silent the small crowd of spectators.
The visitors, who last won a match in September 2018 and suffered narrow CNL defeats to Guyana and Antigua & Barbuda, never really looked likely to level matters and packed their midfield to fend off any sign of danger.
Theodore Whitmore’s troops, who had destroyed Antigua & Barbuda 6-0 and Guyana 4-0 in their previous CNL encounters, failed to fire on all cylinders. However, that was not surprising as the sparsely populated stadium offered little incentive for the Boyz to go on the rampage.
With Whitmore having yet to oversee a fluid CNL game, which has resulted in plenty of criticism, his tactics are at least grinding out results but without attractive performances. His style of play is not particularly pleasing on the eye, and partly accounted for the low turn out of spectators.
Nicholson should have added to the Boyz tally late in the opening half, but thumped his point-blank range shot directly at the keeper.
He had a golden opportunity to make amends on 75 minutes, only to thunder his spot-kick over the target to leave the crowd frustrated by their side’s lack of finishing power.
The midfield battle continued with Aruba making no threats to snatch an equaliser, so it must have come as a huge relief for Whitmore when Nicholson eventually grabbed the goal he had been threatening with just two minutes remaining.
Surrounded by defenders, he controlled the ball beautifully then picked his spot to earn the Boyz maximum points and take Whitmore’s side to within a game of qualifying for next year’s Gold Cup.
Victory in Wednesday’s return match, played in Curaçao, will take the Boyz ever closer to winning CNL Group B and moving to Group A and very achievable.
The previous time that Jamaica faced Aruba was their 6-0 thrashing in 1997, and had there been more vocal support at the National Stadium then maybe Nicholson would have emerged with a hat-trick and the Boyz would have surpassed that victory.
Aruba are not expecting a bumper crowd when they next tackle Jamaica, so Whitmore needs to alter his tactics from this tie in order to get his troops focused on producing more attractive play and mopping up a gluttony of scoring chances.