Fray hat-trick steers U-20 Girlz to 4-4 thriller with Guatemala


Fray hat-trick steers U-20 Girlz to 4-4 thriller with Guatemala

Jamaica…4 Brown (50th), Fray (54th, 68th, 76th) Guatemala…4 Ovando (12th), Alvarez (25th, 78th), Recinos (34th)

Sunday, February 23, 2020

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A hat-trick from striker Marlee Fray, brought Jamaica's young Reggae Girlz from three goals down to earn a 4-4 stalemate with Guatemala in an eight-goal thriller to start the Concacaf Women's Under-20 Championship in Dominican Republic yesterday.

Fray, who was greatly assisted by senior Reggae Girlz striker Jody Brown, struck in the 54th, 68th, and 76th minutes, while Brown grabbed the other in the 50th, to steal a point for the Jamaicans at Estadio Panamericano in San Cristobal.

Andrea Alvarez (25th and 78th) had a brace for the Guatemalans, who seemed all over a winner being 3-0 up after the first 45 minutes. Sandra Ovando (12th) and Maria Recinos (34th) were the other scorers for the Central Americans.

With the point, both teams sit joint second in Group E, behind powerhouse and favourites Canada, who were 2-0 winners over El Salvador.

As expected, the Jamaicans, whose best finish at this tournament was fourth in 2006 in Mexico, came out strong and bossed possession in the early exchanges.

Brown, who was menacing on the left channel, led the Jamaican charge and almost sent them ahead in the ninth minute when she laid off a pass across goal for Chantelle Parker, who fired her shot straight at custodian Ashley Avalos.

Guatemala steadily grew in the game and assumed the ascendancy against the run of play when Ovando spotted Jamaica goalkeeper Milan Dewkinandan off her line and lobbed a 20-yard right-footed effort into the net.

Brown tried to pull Jamaica level immediately after, but her effort from distance was kept out by goalkeeper Avalos.

Fray connected with Brown on the very next play, but the latter was again denied by Avalos, who blocked the shot into the path of Parker, who again failed to connect with conviction.

Two minute later, Nevillegail Able was presented with the perfect opportunity to snare the equaliser, but she somehow fired over the crossbar from goalmouth.

The young Reggae Girlz were made to pay for their profligacy when Alvarez converted from the 12-yard spot, after Lauren Reid felled Jennifer Ortiz in the danger area.

Guatemala went close to extending the lead two minutes past the half-hour mark, but Ortiz's right-footed effort, which left Dewkinandan for dead, came back off the right upright.

However, that disappointment quickly turned to celebration when Recinos expertly set and then chipped over the backtracking Dewkinandan's head, after she again unnecessarily strayed from her line.

At the other end, the young Reggae Girlz continued to find Avalos hard to beat, as she charged down Fray's shot from close range to keep Guatemala 3-0 up at the break.

Whatever talks Xavier Gilbert and his coaching staff gave the Girlz in the dressing room seemingly connected, as Brown pulled one back five minutes into the resumption.

The diminutive striker was sent on her way by Lacey-Ann Murray to bury a left-footed effort at the near post.

From there, it was all Jamaica on the ball and the scoreline quickly became 4-2 four minutes later, when Fray fired into the bottom right hand corner on a second attempt after the first was blocked by a defender.

The bustling Fray then pulled Jamaica level when she expertly headed home Parker's left-footed chip from close range.

And for the first time in the contest, Jamaica found themselves in front, when Brown produced another dazzling solo effort to get by three defenders, before playing the ball across the face of goal for Fray to finish off.

But they quickly squandered the lead and with it, all three points, when a defensive mix up between Malia Atkins and Dewkinandan allowed Alvarez to charge in on goal and stab home to share the spoils.

The Jamaicans continue their hunt for a historic Fifa World Cup qualification against El Salvador tomorrow, with Canada set to meet Guatemala.

Meanwhile, 2018 beaten finalists United States opened their Group C account with a 9-0 win over Cuba. Honduras and Dominican Republic were set to meet in the late contest.

Defending champions Mexico, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, and Puerto Rico will contest Group D, while Group F comprises Haiti, Trinidad and Tobago, Panama, and Cayman Islands.

After round-robin play the top-three teams in each group will advance to the knockout stage, joining the four qualifiers Guyana, St Lucia, St Kitts and Nevis, and Grenada.

The March 8 finalists and the third-place play-off winner will qualify for the World Cup to be hosted by Costa Rica and Panama.

This will be the first-ever co-hosting of a Fifa youth tournament, and the second-ever co-hosting of a Fifa tournament after the 2002 Fifa World Cup.

— Sherdon Cowan

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