Ajax, Mississauga strikers connect as Canada blanks Jamaica in huge Olympic qualifier

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Published September 23, 2023 at 10:00 am

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The strikers struck twice for an often goal starved Canadian National Women’s Team in a crucial 2-0 away win over Jamaica Friday night in the first leg of a two-game Olympic qualifying series, with the home half coming Tuesday in front of a sold out crowd at BMO Stadium in Toronto.

Nichelle Prince of Ajax, something of a forgotten striker in what has been a mostly disappointing 2023 for the Canadians, struck in the 18th minute on a crashing header off a sublime cross from Ashley Lawrence of Brampton to give the Reds first blood and all the offence they would need on this night.

Mississauga-born Adriana Leon’s goal in stoppage time provided the insurance, with Leon running onto Gabby Carle’s pass and finishing with a cheeky flip past Jamaica goalkeeper Becky Spencer for Leon’s 30th goal on her 100th appearance for Canada.

Prince’s goal was her 14th in her 92nd cap.

The game was the first for Canada since a dismal World Cup campaign that saw the team fail to survive the group stage after a lopsided 4-0 loss to co-host Australia in the final game of group play.

The Jamaicans, meanwhile, became the first Caribbean country to qualify for a Women’s World Cup knockout round, reaching the round of 16 where they were edged 1-0 by No. 22 Colombia.

Canada #1 Kailen Sheridan of Whitby had little to do in recording her 20th shutout, making just one save.

Canada had won all nine previous meetings with Jamaica, outscoring the Reggae Girlz 60-1. But this was a far different Jamaican team after their impressive World Cup appearance, making Thursday’s win all the more sweet for coach Bev Priestman and her squad.

Midfielder Jessie Fleming captained Canada with 40 year-old soccer legend Christine Sinclair on the bench.

Brazil and Colombia have already qualified for the 12-country Olympic field next year, along with the U.S. and host France.

With files from Canadian Press

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