Article from The Voice: (written by Neil-Monticelli Harley-Rudd) . .
ANDRE GRAY’S first international goal earned Jamaica’s Reggae Boyz a
creditable draw against European heavyweights Serbia in Japan today
The Watford striker broke the deadlock after 29 minutes
with a sensational strike to stun Dragan Stojkovic’s side, but the Boyz
were finally pinned by after Andrija Pavlovic equalised on 61 minutes.
just a 19-strong squad, which included three goalkeepers due to travel
issues, Jamaica head coach Theodore Whitmore was forced to field an
experimental side against Serbia.
defensively-minded head coach, started with a flat back five leaving
Gray and Costa Rica-based Javon East upfront. His tactics worked wonders
as the Boyz bossed the friendly, surprisingly overwhelming their FIFA
world-ranked no.25 opponents with eight shots compared to three in the
one-sided opening half.
Both nations were missing their regular captains, Jamaica goalkeeper
Andre Blake and Serbia striker Dusan Tadic notable absentees but the
Boyz were ably led by Egypt-based midfielder Damion Lowe.
head coach Stojkovic, who used to play before managing in Japan with
Nagoya Grampus, must have been shocked by Jamaica’s speed as the Serbs
always rely on their controlled and physical game. Yet the result
extended Serbia’s unbeaten run to eight games.
With the Boyz
clearly on top from the start, it came as no surprise that they opened
the scoring. A slick break saw Gray race down the left wing and outclass
on-rushing keeper Djordje Nikolic on the edge of the area with some
nifty footwork. Gray, in only his second international match,
confidently fired the ball into the empty net from an acute angle with a
But there were no fans to celebrate inside the
Miki Athletic Stadium in Kobe. Japan is suffering a fourth wave of
COVID-19, which meant that although friendly was played behind closed
doors it did not deter the waves of attack from the industrious Jamaica
This was a very different display to the one that saw the Boyz easily
torn apart 4-1 by the United States in March’s exhibition game, even
though Whitmore once more had little choice over his final squad.
the turnaround Whitmore altered his line-up, opting for an untried
4-2-2-2 formation by employing Adrian Mariappa and Devon Williams as
double sweepers to effectively ‘park the bus’ and frustrate Serbia.
a prolonged melee around the penalty area ended in second-half
substitute Pavlovic rocketing his effort into the bottom right-hand
corner to unnerve the Boyz with a well-taken equaliser.
Whitmore felt challenged on the sidelines, so he reacted by
constantly swapping personnel although the strangest substitution was
bringing on defender Curtis Tilt for goal hero Gray with 11 minutes
remaining. However, his gamble paid off, with the Boyz’ spirited
performance likely to propel Jamaica further up the world rankings from
their current position of no.45.
Jamaica, with just two triumphs from 11 past games, are scheduled
to tackle Japan’s Olympic U23 team on Saturday (June 12) in Nagoya.
They kick-off their CONCACAF Gold Cup campaign against Suriname on July
13 and, if they can replicate this sort of display, will be confident of
making an impact at the tournament.
JAMAICA: Taylor –
Fisher, Moore, Harding, Bell – Mariappa, Williams (Lambert, 86 mins) –
Lowe (Morrison, 72.), Turgott (Malcolm, 57.) – East, Gray (Tilt,
79.). Subs: Barnes, White, Levee, Isaacs
SERBIA: Nicolic (Marco Ilic, 46.) - Marko Petkovic (Milos Vulic, 74.), Cestic (Pavlovic, 46.), Stefan Mitrovic, Terzic - Zeljko Gavric (Milan Makaric, 46.), Nemanja Gudelj, Ivan Ilic (Uros Spajic, 46.), Marko Grujic (Nemanja Maksimovic, 63.) - Joveljic, Nemanja Jovic