Panama downs Jamaica to stay top in Group A

Edson Samms (pictured) celebrates after scoring in Panama's CONCACAF Under-20 Championship win over host Jamaica on January 14, 2015, in Kingston, Jamaica. (Photo: Mexsport)

KINGSTON, Jamaica – Panama (3-0-0, 9 points) remained perfect in the CONCACAF Under-20 Championship, prevailing 2-0 over host Jamaica (0-1-2, 1 point) on Wednesday at the National Stadium.

Edson Samms and Ismael Diaz scored as the Panamanians reclaimed first place in Group A over Guatemala (2-1-0, 7 points), which occupied that perch temporarily thanks to a 2-0 win over Trinidad & Tobago (1-1-1, 4 points) earlier in the day. 

In a tightly-contested encounter that produced no first-half goals, Panama’s patience was rewarded in the 56th minute.

An ordinary swapping of passes in the defensive side saw Fidel Escobar burst into action and deliver superbly with the outside of his right foot down the middle of the field.  Out on the left, the intelligent Samms got behind defender Roberto Johnson and raced towards the ball.  From the edge of the penalty area, he clinically snapped a shot past goalkeeper Nicholas Nelson for a 1-0 lead. 

Only two minutes earlier, Jamaica had an effort from a similar spot on the other end, but Donja Smith sailed an attempt high as goalkeeper Jaime De Gracia charged off his line. 

Diaz netted an insurance tally with four minutes left in normal time.  After an exchange with the right-sided Jhamal Rodriguez, Diaz received a return pass and fired the ball into the lower left corner from 17-yards out. 

Group A next moves to Montego Bay and will resume play on Sunday with a tripleheader: Panama-Trinidad & Tobago (3:00 p.m. ET), Guatemala-Aruba (5:30 p.m. ET) and Jamaica-USA (8:00 p.m. ET).