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Late strike lifts US in World Cup qualifying

Costa Rica also win, while joint-top Mexico draw with Panama

Gulf News

Kingston: Brad Evans’ goal in injury time lifted the United States to a 2-1 triumph over Jamaica on Friday in the final round of 2014 World Cup qualifying in North and Central America and the Caribbean.

Jurgen Klinsmann’s US team snatched three crucial points thanks to the last-gasp goal from Evans, which came three minutes after Jermaine Beckford appeared to salvage a draw for Jamaica with an 89th minute equaliser.

Jozy Altidore had put the United States ahead 1-0 in the 30th minute.

Off a corner kick, Michael Bradley beat a Jamaican defender and found Seattle Sounders defender Evans, who turned and fired the ball into Donovan Ricketts’ net.

“That never-say-die attitude is what got it done,” said Evans, who scored his first international goal.

The victory gives the United States seven points, level with Costa Rica and Mexico atop the six-nation final qualifying group, although the USA and Costa Rica have a game in hand.

Costa Rica notched a 1-0 victory over Honduras in San Jose on Friday courtesy of Roy Miller’s 25th-minute strike, while Mexico played to a goalless draw against Panama in Panama City.

The top three teams will advance to next year’s World Cup finals in Brazil, with the fourth-place team playing New Zealand for another berth.

In Kingston, the United States appeared to be in firm control after Altidore opened the scoring with a header off a cross from Graham Zusi.

The visitors controlled the pace, but nine minutes after Altidore’s strike Jamaica threatened as midfielder Rodolph Austin gathered the ball in the penalty area only to see his attempt deflect off the far post.

The United States got a scare 11 minutes into the second half when Jermaine Jones was forced out of the game after a flying collision with Jamaica defender Daniel Gordon. Geoff Cameron replaced him in the 59th minute.

Altidore also departed the game with an apparent right hamstring injury in the 83rd minute, with Eddie Johnson coming on in his stead.

Nevertheless, the United States appeared on their way to collecting three points when Jamaica won a free kick that Austin curled in from the left. It found substitute Beckford directly in front of Tim Howard’s goal and Beckford headed it past the US keeper.

The United States kept pressing and were rewarded with their first victory on Jamaican soil in six tries in World Cup qualifying.

“There’s still work to be done. I think we can do better at certain moments, and I think everybody will tell you that from the top down,” Evans said. “There’s still work to be done, but three points on the road in a place where you haven’t won is pretty special.”

The United States were coming off a morale-boosting 4-3 victory over Germany in a friendly match in Washington on Sunday.

Jamaica on the other hand had little time to recover from a 1-0 qualifying loss to Mexico in Kingston on Tuesday night and remain winless in the final round with two points from five matches.

“They played Tuesday night, so maybe their legs were a little bit tired in the second half,” Evans said.

“We thought as long as we keep possession and play forward and break them up a little bit, maybe we get them tired and maybe we catch them on the break. But it was a set-piece that found us the goal.”

Qualifying in the region continues next Tuesday, when Mexico host Costa Rica, Honduras host Jamaica and the United States host Panama.