GUADALAJARA, Mexico — A frustrated Canada had to settle for a scoreless tie with Haiti on Monday at the CONCACAF Men’s Olympic Qualifying Championship.

Canada (1-0-1) faces Honduras on Thursday in its final Group B game. The Canadians are still in the hunt to advance to the semifinals, which will determine the two teams going to the Olympics, but may face a more difficult route.

The Canadians pressed as the clock wound down and had several set pieces but failed to take advantage. Haiti goalkeeper Alan Jerome made a game-saving save with his foot on substitute Ballou Tabla on a Canadian counter-attack in stoppage time.

The Hondurans (1-0-0) played El Salvador (0-1-0) in the late game Monday.

It was 30 degree Celsius for the 4 p.m. local time kickoff at an empty Estado Akron, which hosted the opening and closing ceremonies of the 2011 Pan American Games.

Haiti (0-1-1) showed its hand early, often stacking 11 men behind the ball in its own half in a defensive block. Canada, while dominating possession, struggled to unlock the Haitian defence in the first 45 minutes.

Haiti had a much stronger second half, testing Canadian goalkeeper James Pantemis on several good scoring chances.

The eight-country tournament, originally scheduled for last March but postponed due to the pandemic, will determine which two teams will represent North and Central America and the Caribbean at this summer’s Tokyo Olympics.

Honduras and Mexico, which won gold in 2012, represented the region at the last two Olympics. The Canadian men have not taken part since the 1984 Olympics.

The U.S. and Mexico both improved to 2-0-0 with wins Sunday in Group A play, ensuring they qualify for the semifinals. The two meet Monday to decide who tops the group.

The top teams from each group cross-over in the semis.

The Canadians penned the Haitians in their own end early and Jerome used his body to deny Tajon Buchanan from in-close in the 13th minute after a fine feed by fullback Zachary Brault-Guillard.

Haiti offered little the few times it did venture into Canadian territory with the ball.

Canada captain Derek Cornelius’ header off a corner was off-target in the 30th minute, his aim no doubt hampered by the Haiti defender clutching a handful of his jersey.

Canada started looking to put balls behind the Haiti defence, with a pair of attacks denied by the offside flag late in the first half. At the other end, Pantemis did not have to make a save in the first 45 minutes.

A Buchanan free kick from a dangerous position just outside the penalty box went high in the 49th minute. 

Haiti had a brief spurt of offence and Pantemis, finally called into action, had to be sharp to deny Dutherson Clerveaux in the 56th minute.

Jerome stopped Buchanan’s header in the 62nd minute off a dangerous free kick from Michael Baldisimo. At the other end, Pantemis was almost caught out by Eliader Dorlus’s swerving shot from long range.

Haiti came close again in the 71st minute after a poor touch defensively but the shot went straight at Pantemis. The Canadian ‘keeper made his best save of the game a minute later to stop Clerveaux’s diving header.

Jerome went down hard after a late collision in the air with Buchanan but recovered.

The Canadians opened play Friday with a 2-0 win over El Salvador on the strength of two goals by Buchanan.

Haiti had a more chaotic start to the tournament in a 3-0 loss to Honduras the same day. It was forced to kick off with just 10 men on the pitch including an outfield player in goal after part of its delegation arrived late in Guadalajara, delaying some COVID-19 protocols. The team was able to get to full strength in the second half after tests came back negative.

Haiti had just five players on its bench Monday, with no backup ‘keepers.

Canada coach Mauro Biello made two changes to his starting lineup with David Norman Jr., and Theo Bair coming in for Callum Montgomery and Tabla. Montgomery was injured in the first game against El Salvador and was replaced by Norman at halftime. 

CONCACAF reported prior to Monday’s game that two members of its officials pool had tested positive for COVID-19 and were self-isolating. Costa Rica’s Juan Gabriel Calderon took charge of Canada’s match.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 22, 2021

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