Jamaica beat Panama to secure third place at CNL finals

March 24 – Jamaica are the third best team in Concacaf. With a 1-0 win over Panama in the Nations League third place play-off, the Reggae Boyz are climbing the regional hierarchy.

Canada had been the third best while Panama were staking their claim for that spot, but a weakened Jamaican team without four key English Premier League players had more than enough to dispatch them with a Dexter Lembikiska goal at the end of the first half.

Jamaica had qualified for the final with late goals to equalise their quarter final with Canada, going through on penalties.

Without West Ham forward Michail Antonio, Brentford’s Ethan Pinnock, Luton Town’s Amari’i Bell and Aston Villa’s in-form winger Leon Bailey (dropped for breaking curfew at the last camp), Jamaica had something of a patched up look about them.

It proved to be a good look. They were seconds away from beating the US in the semi-final who equalised with the last play of the match in added time before going on to conceded twice more in extra time.

They turned around from that predominantly defensive effort to a much more fluid and attacking performance against a full strength Panama.

Panama will be disappointed. A lacklustre first half was followed up by a stronger second half but it was not enough to unlock Jamaica’s defence and get past the outstanding Andre Blake in goal.

It also didn’t match the form that saw them reach the final of the Gold Cup last summer where they lost to Mexico 1-0. They lost to Mexico 3-0 in the semi-final last Thursday.

It is not all disaster, they had good passages of play but Christiansen will need a reset going into the first 2026 World Cup qualifiers ahead of the Copa America in the summer. The best that can be said is that they will have better weeks, but they do need to find a way of converting opportunities into goals.

Jamaican coach Heimir Hallgrimsson made three changes from the team that lost 3-1 to the USA. Strikers Demarai Gray and Shamar Nicholson were both back from suspension started. They made a huge difference.

Panama’s Thomas Christiansen made five changes from the 3-0 semi-final loss to the US. Cecelio Waterman came into the attack alongside Jose Fajardo while Jiovany Ramos and Ivan Anderson were paired on the right.

Jamaica opened with more confidence than Panama who looked weary and lacked intensity.

They built play from the back with Joel Latibeaudaire looking particularly comfortable, and kept the Panamanians pegged back in their own half when they didn’t have the ball.

The first real chance fell to Jamaica’s Nicholson on 18’ who, sent through on goal, hit his shot into the keeper Orlando Mosquera, his follow up was blocked on the line by Ramos. Jamaica were pressing hard.

On 25’ a Gray cross from the left found Kasey Palmer in front of goal who mistimed his shot over the bar. Three minutes later Gray had a shot from just inside the box blocked by Mosquera. Chance were coming quickly and easily for the Jamaicans.

Panama worked themselves back into the game for a 10-minutes spell and won three free kicks around the Jamaican box but each time failed to threaten.

On 40’ Jamaica had the lead.

Michael Hector fed Dexter Lembikisa in space on the right who cut inside and beautifully curled his left footed shot round Mosquera and in to the top right hand corner of his goal.

Three minutes later Panama almost equalised but Jamaica captain Andre Blake diving low to his right palmed Anibal Godoy’s shot round the post.

Jamaica went in at half time 1-0 having had the better of the first 45’.

Panama returned with more intensity but it was Jamaica who should have doubled their lead.

A ball over the top to Nicholson saw his shot blocked again. Damien Lowe seconds later dinked the ball from 25m over Mosquera but on to the bar.

Half chances were falling to both teams but the best fell to Panama on 78’ with Waterman diving to meet a Cristian Martinez free kick but heading over.

Jamaica closed out the match dropping deep while Christiansen worked his bench, freshening up his attack with Ismael Diaz and Alfredo Stephens.

Three minutes into added time Abdiel Ayarza blasted into the right hand side netting. It was Panama’s last chance to equalise.

Jamaica were deserved winners, though they would have liked more goals. Panama would have liked any goal, leaving the final tournament without scoring and in fourth place for a second consecutive season.

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