SAN CRISTOBAL, Dominican Republic — Jamaica's Reggae Girlz breathed new life into the CFU Women's Under-20 World Cup qualifying campaign with an efficient 2-0 win over The Cayman Islands at the San Cristobal Football Stadium here yesterday.
USA-based Kimberly Spence fired the Jamaicans into the lead in minute 30 after a spell of dominance by her team. Substitute Shenika Williams provided the cushion in the 77th minute.
Though the win was crucial in revitalising a diminishing campaign after losing their opening game 0-1 to Haiti on Friday, the Young Reggae Girlz are not yet out of the woods and still face the possibility of not advancing from Zone E.
Only the winners of the two Caribbean zones — the other being contested in Cuba simultaneously — will automatically progress to the CONCACAF finals slated for Panama in March.
The best runner-up across the Caribbean zones will complete the list of three Caribbean teams that will join five others for the eight-team CONCACAF play-offs where three advance to the FIFA Under-20 Women's World Cup in Japan this summer.
Zone F of the CFU play-offs is being contested by hosts Cuba, Trinidad and Tobago, Guyana and Puerto Rico.
With leaders Haiti looking the team to beat, and are likely to win Zone E after blowing away hosts Dominican Republic 4-0 in yesterday's feature game here, Jamaica's fate will hinge on the outcome in Cuba.
Assistant coach Xavier Gilbert, while pleased with the improved showing of the Girlz, was equally quick to underline the wastefulness in front of goal against a Cayman team that was run ragged by a buoyant set of Girlz desperate to come out on top in a do-or-die contest.
"We are pleased with the way the Girlz played, but we should have scored more goals because the situation we are in goals in the end may prove crucial," he said.
While Jamaica controlled possession and the momentum of the game, the profligacy in front of goal was their only letdown and captain Trudi Carter, while playing an instrumental role of provider, lacked the killer instincts on at least three occasions to hit the mark.
She promised great things when she hit the post from a deceptive 20-yard free kick that left Cayman goalkeeper Emily Kelly clueless, as the ball slammed onto the crossbar and back into play, but a lurking Marlo Sweatman could not finish off from up close.
And as the Young Girlz moved to their own beat and threatened the Cayman goal at will, the most telling move up to that point came in the 30th minute when the impressive Spence found the goal to break the ice and bring welcome relief to the Jamaican bench.
From a ball played down the middle, the slippery Spence shook off her marker with the help from a favourable bounce of the ball, charged towards goal with only the Caymanian goalie at her mercy, and as cool as a cucumber, she slotted home.
And as Jamaica hunted more goals as they seek to stockpile them for future reference in case they will be needed in a tie-breaker going forward, they pushed their opponents back with the attacking sway that promised a deluge. But it never came.
In the 60th minute, the livewire Carla Daniels cut a path for Carter, but the latter agonisingly steered the ball wide from 16 yards.
Spence, who attends Auburn University in the USA and who has been a revelation in her two matches, turned provider when she willed Daniels forward with a teasing pass, but while the finish was threatening enough, it lacked precision and hit the post.
Jamaica's second goal finally came when Williams expertly chested down a ballooning ball into the area, slipped by a standing Caymanian defender before expertly placing the ball where it should have gone more often on the day — in the goal.
Carter in the 79th minute had another glorious opportunity to score, but after creating the opening with a display of individual brilliance, kicked tamely to Kelly.
Jamaica, in another must-win game to keep their hopes alive, will face hosts Dominican Republic tomorrow in the headline game of the day.