ATLANTA: Darren Mattocks and Giles Barnes scored first-half goals to propel Jamaica to an upset 2-1 victory over the United States in the CONCACAF Gold Cup semifinals in Atlanta on Wednesday.
The victory ensured Jamaica became the first Caribbean team to reach the Gold Cup Final since its inception in 1991. The Reggae Boyz will face Mexico in Philadelphia on Sunday after El Tri overcame 10-man Panama 2-1 with two late penalties in a combustible affair. The hosts and 2013 champions had reached five successive Gold Cup finals and were fresh off a 6-0 thrashing of Cuba in the quarter-finals but the tournament favourites were left shell-shocked by an early Jamaican onslaught.
Mattocks, who was suspended for his team’s quarterfinal win over Haiti, struck in the 31st minute with a header before Barnes scored from a free-kick five minutes later.
USA had made defensive changes ahead of the contest with John Brooks returning from suspension to replace Omar Gonzalez and Brad Evans coming in for Timmy Chandler, and it was at the back where the Americans struggled the most. However, home captain Michael Bradley dragged his side back into the match with a goal in the 48th minute but the USA were unable to find an equalizer despite pressuring Jamaica goalkeeper Ryan Thompson for much of the second half.
Late penalties: In the late match at the same venue, Mexico emerged victorious from yet another controversial marathon to reach their fourth final in the last five tournaments. Andres Guardado netted two late penalty kicks to lead Mexico to victory over an unlucky Panama side, who were reduced to 10 men after 20 minutes when forward Luis Tejada was shown a red card for raising his arm into the face of Francisco Rodriguez.
Undeterred, Panama took a surprise 1-0 lead when Roman Torres scored in the 57th minute and looked set to reach the final as they held on to the advantage with just two minutes remaining.
However, American referee Mark Geiger was back in the thick of the action when he awarded a penalty to Mexico after Torres had fallen on the ball in the area and was adjudged to have handled when it wedged under his body.
The contentious decision triggered a heated confrontation between both sides and delayed the match for a lengthy period. Guardado eventually converted the penalty to force extra time then Mexico were awarded another less controversial spot kick when Panamanian defender Harold Cummings upended Javier Orozco shortly before halftime.
Guardado once again buried from the spot and Mexico held on to advance to the final. The Mexicans had defeated Costa Rica in equally controversial fashion in the quarterfinals when Guardado scored a contentious 124th minute penalty to secure a 1-0 victory.