Photo: Portmore United goal scorer Javon East protect the ball from Tivoli Gardens defender Romaine Brakenridge during theiir first leg quarter final in the Red Stripe Premier League at the Edward Seaga Sports Complex on Sunday. East scored the opener in the 39th minute but Howard Morris scored the equalizer four minutes from time. The two teams will face each other in the second leg next weekend.
Portmore United left the Edward Seaga Sports Complex more disappointed than the home team Tivoli Gardens after they let a one goal lead slip with just four minutes left to play in their first leg Red Stripe Premier League quarter final match on Sunday. Enjoying a one man advantage and leading from the 39th minute, when Javon East gave them the lead, the former champions appeared to be heading to the second leg with a one nil advantage, But Howard Morris leveled with a special strike to leave the second tie on an even keel.
Neither team had registered a home win in three regular season games, with Tivoli winning 1-0 and 2-1 at the Prison Oval and Portmore winning 2-0 in their previous game at the “Complex”.
Portmore had a full team to choose from while Tivoli missed three strikers, Jermaine “Teddy” Johnson (16 goals), Elton Thompson (11 goals) and Miguel Cummings (2 goals) which represented not just most of their fire power but also most of their experience up front.
Portmore took full advantage of their opponents missing players by going on the front foot from the first whistle and remained there until the half time interval.
Tivoli was lucky not to be behind with less than a minute on the clock when Kareen Manning struck the base of the right upright while Davin Watkins just stood and watched.
The outstanding Ricardo Morris, who was involved in most of the Portmore attacks, was soon in the thick of things, but his shot from 20 yards was poor by his standards and Watkins gathered with ease.
The home team who barely had a look in, finally gave their fans something to cheer about when Tevin Shaw managed to get his head on the end of a free kick from Marvin Stewart, but the effort failed to trouble Shaven-Sean Paul in the Portmore goal.
Morris kept driving the Portmore attack and his next shot on target was a much better effort, barely clearing the crossbar, as Watkins was kept busy.
A rush of blood from Tivoli defender Romaine Brakenridge in the 34th minute titled the game in favour of Portmore even further when he injured both himself and Henrico Ricketts when trying to win an arial battle with the striker. Both players were stretchered off with head injuries and to add insult to injury, Brakenridge was shown the red card by referee Odette Hamilton.
Before the Tivoli team could make the defensive adjustment, they found themselves down a goal when the skillful Javon East put Portmore ahead in the 39th minute. Given time and space inside the box, East froze Watkins with a fake before firing to the far post to make it 1-0.
Tivoli survived five minutes of stoppage time which resulted from the long delay to treat the injured players, and went into the break down by just one goal.
Returning like a team on a mission, Tivoli finally started playing like the home team and despite being down to ten players had the Portmore team defending a lot more than in the first half. The lively Junior McGregor who had come for Peter Keyes in the first half, took the game to the Portmore team as he inspired the Tivoli attack.
McGregor combined well with his captain Nicholas Smith down the left flank, releasing the overlapping left back who was beaten to the ball by Paul who left his line just in time to avert the danger.
Howard Morris, who had entered the game in the 54th minute, played in McGregor who found Smith wide out on the left once more. Cutting in on his right foot as he blew by a Portmore defender, Smith let fly but Paul punched the ball away to safety as the home team piled on the pressure.
Michael Binns released East down the left channel for Portmore but the goal scorer was unable to double his team’s lead as his shot crashed into the side netting.
Tivoli was unrelenting at the other end and after Ajuma Johnson came close with a shot from inside the box that went just wide of the far post, Morris brought the house down with a beautiful strike in the 86th minute. Cutting inside from the left, like his skipper had done earlier, the young striker shot powerfully on target and took off to celebrate with the Tivoli supporters after the ball flew into the back of the net after smashing against the inside of the post.
Four minutes of added time brought no further goals, but there will be more one way or another, in the second leg a week from now.
“We always believed that we could get back in the game, once you have ten Tivoli players on the field they will fight to the death. I believed in them from the get go. We have a couple individuals that always come up with the goods when it matters most,” said a defiant Damion Gordon.
“The youngsters are living up to the task, they have always believed in themselves. That is the type of players we have here and the senior players also encourage them. Hopefully, Elton (Thompson) will be back or Jermaine Johnson, one will be back for sure or maybe both of them,” he continued.
Portmore United coach, Linval Dixon rued the lack of midfield control by his team when having the one man advantage.
“We never keep possession in the second half when Tivoli had one man short, we never played smart football. It is something we have to address, something we have to deal with. It is all to play for in the second leg. We have to take our chances in the second leg.
“Our focus and our concentration level needs to improve, in the latter stages we weren’t running enough inside the middle third of the field and hence Tivoli got that beautiful goal.”
The other quarter final involving defending champions Montego Bay United and Arnett Gardens will be played Monday Night at the Anthony Spaulding Sports Complex starting at 8:00pm.