A second-half goal from Reading winger Garath McCleary fired Jamaica into the quarter-finals of the Gold Cup as group winners here Tuesday 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, which 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, which 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.
Elsewhere Tuesday, Canada’s involvement in the competition came to an end as they were held to a 0-0 draw by World Cup quarter-finalists Costa Rica.
The Canadians needed a victory against Los Ticos to vault into second place and reach the last eight.
However, despite a furious late onslaught, the Canadians were unable to breach some desperate Costa Rica defending and were eliminated.
Bryan Ruiz was the hero for Costa Rica, producing a goal-line clearance from Andre Hainault in the closing minutes to deny Canada a famous win.
Costa Rica qualified for the quarter-finals as runners-up and will now face the second place team from Group C — most likely Mexico or Trinidad & Tobago — in the last eight.