Pepi double gives US win over Jamaica

Soccer: CONCACAF FIFA World Cup Qualifier-Jamaica at USA
United States forward Ricardo Pepi (16) celebrates his goal against Jamaica with teammates Paul Arriola (7) and Antonee Robinson (5) during the second half of a FIFA World Cup Qualifier at Q2 Stadium.
Chuck Burton-USA TODAY Sports

(Reuters) -A second-half double from Ricardo Pepi gave the United States a 2-0 home win over Jamaica on Thursday to remain unbeaten in CONCACAF qualifying for the 2022 World Cup.

After opening the group with two draws the United States have now won two in a row, with 18-year-old Pepi becoming the youngest American to score in consecutive World Cup qualifiers.

The victory earned the United States a share of top spot on eight points with Mexico, who drew 1-1 with Canada at the Azteca Stadium in an ill-tempered contest that was halted briefly in the second half when spectators began chanting homophobic slurs.

The top three in the eight-team group qualify automatically for Qatar 2022 with the fourth-placed finisher going into an intercontinental playoff for another spot.

Pepi put the United States ahead in the 49th minute in Austin, Texas, when he headed home a superb cross from Sergino Dest. He added a second 13 minutes later, charging onto a cross from Brendan Aaronson and stabbing it past a diving Andre Blake for his third goal in two national team appearances.

United States forward Ricardo Pepi (16) watches his goal past Jamaica defender Damion Lowe (left) during the second half of a FIFA World Cup Qualifier at Q2 Stadium.  Chuck Burton-USA TODAY Sports

Hosts Mexico opened the scoring in the 21st minute with Jorge Sanchez taking advantage of a breakdown in the Canada defence.

Jonathan Osorio netted the equaliser in the 42nd minute, running onto a ball from Alphonso Davies and clinically tucking it past keeper Guillermo Ochoa to give Canada their first goal against Mexico at the Azteca since 1980.

“The positives, we take a point in a hard place and we keep going,” said Osorio.

“It’s a big goal for me and for Canada, it is just another step in the right direction but we know we still got a lot of work to do.”

Mexico were booed off the pitch after a half dominated by Canada with Davies missing from close range and a Steven Vitoria header flying just past the far post.

Things turned nasty in the second half with Tecatito Corona and Richie Laryea getting into an exchange that produced yellow cards, which was soon followed by homophobic chants that resulted in the match being stopped and a warning issued in the stadium.

In other qualifiers, Honduras and Costa Rica laboured to a 0-0 draw in San Pedro Sula while El Salvador took all three points in a 1-0 win over Panama on a first-half goal from Enrico Duenas.

Canada are on six points, two behind the joint leaders, while El Salvador and Panama are on five points. Costa Rica and Honduras have three points and Jamaica prop up the group on one.

(Reporting by Steve Keating in Toronto. Editing by Editing by Peter Rutherford)

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