A second half goal from Reading winger Garath McCleary fired Jamaica into the quarterfinals of the Gold Cup as group winners on Tuesday (Wednesday in Manila) with a 1-0 win over El Salvador.
McCleary pounced on a shot from Jobi McAnuff to bag his second goal of the tournament and ensure that the Reggae Boyz topped Group B to set up a quarter-final on Saturday against Haiti.
The 28-year-old’s 72nd-minute winner was no less than Jamaica deserved in sweltering conditions at Toronto’s BMO Field.
The Caribbean side, who had arrived at the Gold Cup after a winless performance as a guest team at the Copa America, created the better chances throughout an even encounter.
Jamaica were also indebted to a heroic performance between the posts by substitute goalkeeper Ryan Thompson who replaced Dwayne Miller after 22 minutes.
Thompson who plays in the United Soccer League, the third tier of football in the United States, made several key blocks to keep El Salvador at bay during the second half.
Jamaica, who had already been assured of a place in the last eight after a draw with Costa Rica and a win over Canada, were forced to endure a nervy finish when Darren Mattocks was shown a red card for a second bookable offence.
But despite pressure from El Salvador, Jamaica, whose squad includes several players from the lower reaches of English football, held firm.
Tuesday’s second Group B game sees Canada attempting to defeat World Cup quarter-finalists Costa Rica to secure second place and a ticket to the knockout phase.