Photo: Maalique Foster of Portmore United protects the ball from UWI FC defender Allando Brown during their Red Stripe Premier League semifinal return game at the UWI Bowl on Sunday. Foster scoored the first of two goals to help Portmore win the game 2-0 and the tie 3-2 on aggregate to advance to the finals next Monday.
Portmore United needed extra time, but they managed to power their way past a flat University of the West Indies FC team to march into their second Red Stripe Premier League finals in two years. Goals from Maalique Foster in the 82nd minute and Michael Binns in the 116th minute helped the Clarendon based team overturn the 2-1 first leg deficit as they ran out 3-2 aggregate winners and booked a date in the final with Arnett Gardens.
In a first half that produced very little action early on, both teams were guilty of giving the ball away, with the three weeks of inactivity showing clearly on the UWI team.
Girvon Brown was the first to get a sight on goal but under pressure he was unable to get his shot on target.
Davion Garrison was unable to get his header on target from a Keammar Daley cross into the box as the game slowly came to life.
A weary looking Portmore United finally got something going on offense when Ewan Grandison played in Ricardo Morris but Amal Knight showed strong wrists to cut out the cross and avert the danger.
There was a mad scramble in the UWI box and calls for a penalty, before the ball eventually fell to Henrico Ricketts who dragged his shot wide of the post.
UWI then came close to breaking the deadlock but were thwarted by a brilliant save from the Portmore goalkeeper Shaven-Sean Paul. A deep corner from Rochane Smith was headed back to the centre of the goal area by Deno Schaffe for Ramoun Reid to power a header on target but an alert Paul put up a strong right hand to deny the home team.
Javon East should have put the visitors ahead on the stroke of half time when he was presented with a gift of a chance. Morris, who was set free down the right, played the ball across the face of goal to an unmarked East who was dead centre of the goal, but the striker somehow missed the ball which rolled harmlessly outside.
The second half produced even less goal mouth opportunities but as the game wore on, the experience of Portmore started to tell as the Linval Dixon coached team dominated possession.
The tricky Foster who had been the centre of most of Portmore attacks then broke the deadlock with less than ten minutes left in regulation time. He managed to get his boot onto the end of a cross and steer the ball under the body of Knight and draw the tie level at 2-2 on aggregate.
The first period of extra time produced absolutely nothing and with the game heading towards penalty kicks, East produced a moment of magic to settle the contest.
The Portmore team received a free kick deep inside UWI territory down the left side and the kick seemed more suited to a right footed striker. But the player who had been quiet all game curled his left footed strike over the head of Knight and into the back of the net to take his team into next Monday’s final.
An elated Linval Dixon praised the heart and spirit of his battle weary team that had travelled and played a number of games in the CFU Club Championships prior to the second leg.
“We missed a couple chances that we created and the goals didn’t come so we were a little bit concerned. Today we pushed and dug deep to get the victory. It really is an amazing feeling today. We moved forward early but the goal just never came.
“In the second half the players knew that it had to happen then and we got two goals. It is really a fantastic feeling, back to the final where we want to be and we want to take one step better by winning it.”
UWI assistant coach Andrew Peart said, “We got some quality chances that we should have capitalized on to increase the advantage to two but we failed to do that. In extra time seeing that many of the Portmore players were limping and labouring because of fatigue and injury, we should have stepped up the intensity. All we needed was an intense five minutes.”
Portmore United has a week to recover and prepare to go one step further than last season when they face the form team of the premier league, Arnett Gardens, inside the National Stadium.