El Salvador’s progression at the CONCACAF Gold Cup remains up in the air, after they lost 1-0 to Jamaica in Toronto on Tuesday.
Garath McCleary’s tap-in in the 72nd minute ensured Winfried Schafer’s men of top spot in Group B with seven points, having already secured their quarter-final place prior to the fixture at BMO Field.
The Reading man was on hand to score into an unguarded net, after El Salvador goalkeeper Derby Carrillo parried Adrian Mariappa’s shot straight into his path.
Schafer’s side were down to 10 men for the final 10 minutes, as Darren Mattocks earned a second yellow card for a studs-up challenge, but Jamaica held on to make it eight games in succession without defeat against the Salvadorians.
A remarkable double-save from substitute goalkeeper Ryan Thompson preserved Jamaica’s clean sheet just prior to the hour mark, as he first parried Pablo Punyed’s effort from range – before blocking Andres Flores’ close-range effort from the rebound with his legs.
There was more on the line for El Salvador, and that was clear as they pushed for a winner in the second half – only for their quarter-final qualification to be left in the hands of Canada and Costa Rica, who play one another in the second match of the Toronto double-header.
Flores, in his first start for El Salvador this tournament, was in the thick of the action early, earning yellow for a challenge on Giles Barnes in just the fourth minute.
While challenging for a ball two minutes later, Flores made contact with Jermaine Taylor, and the Jamaican was forced from the field due to an injury sustained in the clash.
The El Salvador captain then very nearly set up Punyed for the opening goal, the forward getting on the end of Flores’ cross in from the right – only to deflect it well high of the crossbar off his shin.
Jamaica goalkeeper Dwayne Miller was clipped on the head inadvertently by Punyed – and Schafer was forced to make his second first-half substitution, bringing on Thompson.
Carrillo almost made a fatal blunder 10 minutes out from half-time, fumbling an on-target free-kick from Kemar Lawrence – although Mariappa’s follow-up from an acute angle scooted across the goalmouth.
Michael Hector, who replaced Taylor in the ninth minute, fouled Irvin Herrera right on the paint of the penalty area – but Richie Menjivar’s curling free-kick was dealt with by Thompson.
El Salvador came out in the second half full of vigour as they hunted the goal they needed to ensure their progression, but they were caught on the counter as Jamaica ensured they enter the knockout stages high on confidence.
Je-Vaughn Watson was fortunate to see out the 90 minutes, as – having been cautioned moments earlier – he escaped sanction for pulling Punyed to the ground.
Second-half substitute Arturo Alvarez came close from both a set-piece and free play after his 62nd-minute introduction, but he was unable to break the deadlock.
And moments later, McCleary scored against the run of play to put El Salvador on the brink of an early exit.