Panama 0-1 Jamaica: Allyson Swaby heads Reggae Girlz closer to the knockouts

Knowing a victory would give Panama every chance of qualifying for the knockout stages on their first-ever FIFA Women’s Women Cup appearance, Panama manager Ignacio Quintana made wholesale changes to his XI – with no less than five alterations following their comprehensive 4-0 thrashing at the hands of a rampant-attacking Brazilian side.

Meanwhile, on the back of putting their first-ever point on the board at a WWC  tournament following their creditable goalless draw with France, Quintana’s managerial counterpart, Lorne Donaldson, decided upon three switches to Jamaica’s opening teamsheet. Most significantly, Kayla McKenna was drafted into the side instead of talismanic striker Khadija Shaw – who was forced to sit out the game after seeing red deep in second-half stoppage time on Sunday.

PAN: Bailey; Castillo, Baltrip-Reyes, Pinzón, Natis, Salazar; Mills, González, Cedeño, Cox; Cedeño, Riley Tanner

JAM: Spencer; Cameron, A Swaby, C Swaby, Blackwood; Spence, Sampson, Primus; McKenna, Carter, Brown

With France’s 2-1 victory over Brazil this morning leaving all four nations with a chance to progress into the knockout stages, Jamaica began predominantly on the front foot as Yenith Bailey had to be on her toes in the Panama goal to propel an early attacking bombardment.

Determined to make their early advantage pay dividends as the contest in Perth progressed past the half-hour mark, Jamaica came close to breaking the deadlock. However, Bailey was up to the challenge, acrobatically turning Vyan Sampson’s ambitious long-range effort around the post for a corner, that to the frustration of the Reggae Girlz ultimately led to nothing. 

Forced to play second fiddle to their dominant opponents throughout a one-sided opening half, Panama eventually had their first sighting of a goal on the quickening approach to half time as Marta Cox fired straight at Rebecca Spencer.

Seeking to keep their unblemished historical two-match head-to-head record intact, Jamaica took one step towards achieving their mission in the 56th minute as captain Allyson Swaby stepped up to the plate by heading Trudi Carter’s in-swinging corner past Bailey, to cue euphoric celebrations among the Reggae Girlz.

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Seeking an all-decisive second goal to put the contest to bed, Kayla McKenna was left cursing her luck shortly after, as despite sublimely manoeuvring the ball away from the advancing Bailey, the gap in an exposed net diminished agonisingly in size with every touch she took.

That turned out to be the contest’s final significant goalscoring opportunity, amid VAR controversially denying Jamaica a penalty in stoppage time after it appeared clear as day that Panama defender Wendy Natis had handled in the area.

Nonetheless, Jamaica’s maiden victory at a Women’s World Cup finals moves the Reggae Girlz into the second – but more importantly, final – qualification position in Group F ahead of their concluding encounter against Brazil, knowing that they would secure their place in the knockout stages if they’re able to avoid defeat. Meanwhile, Panama become the latest nation to exit the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup tournament after conceding five goals without vitally netting at the opposite end of the pitch.