Photo: Marvin Anderson celebrates his goal for Arnett Gardens. Anderson scored the opening goal of the 2-1 win by Arnett Gardens over Tivoli Gardens which sealed the 'league title' and $1 million.
Arnett Gardens 2-1 win over Tivoli Gardens coupled with a stunning 3-0 loss for second place Waterhouse away at strugglers Reno, means that the race for regular season honours has been wrapped up by the Jerome Waite coached team with two matches to go.
The league’s most consistent team made the short journey to rivals Tivoli on Sunday, confident of victory having beaten the home team twice already this season, but it was the home team that took control of the game in the opening stages.
In fact, there was barely a minute on the clock when Keammar “Dada” Daley had goalkeeper Damian Hyatt scrambling to push a long range effort behind for a corner kick.
It was another scrambled effort that got the resultant corner clear, as Marvin “Missa Man” Morgan showed great concentration to hook a goal-bound header off the line, as Arnett rode their luck in the opening stages.
Despite the glaring absence of head coach Alvin Shaw from the bench, veterans Keammar Daley and captain Christopher Jackson along with Andre Morgan pushed back the visitors as they went on the hunt for the games opening goal while they clung on to the outside chance on finishing inside the top four.
Tivoli had another golden opportunity to take the lead when a wicked inswinging free kick from Lennox Creary found the head of an unmarked Ranike Anderson inside the area, but the big defender could do no more than head straight to a grateful Hyatt who clung on for dear life.
Arnett slowly fought their way back into the contest and it was Morgan who had their first effort on target for the visitors, after he cut in from the left to whip an effort towards the roof of the net. The veteran Edsel Scott did well to tip over for a corner kick and keep the scores level at 0-0.
But Morgan was not to be denied as he provided the breakthrough for Arnett in the 25th minute. The forward was brought down inside the box and got up to dust himself off and score the resultant penalty, sending Scott the wrong way as the visitors led with a quarter of the game played.
Tivoli was level twelve minutes later when Kemar Flemmings scored from twelve yards despite Hyatt getting a hand on the ball. Both teams had opened their accounts from the penalty spot but desired more.
The usual feisty challenges that accompanies a game between these two teams marked most of the remainder of the half, but Jackson almost gave Tivoli the lead just before the interval when his peach of a free kick, which was headed for the right hand corner of the goal, brought out the best out of Hyatt. The keeper had to dive full stretch to his right to parry the ball for a corner.
The teams went into the break level in a game that promised more goals and more hard challenges.
Four minutes after the resumption, Daley forced yet another good save out of Hyatt who had to fly to his right to keep out a header from the Tivoli midfielder from just inside the area.
The defining moment of the game came in the 57th minute when substitute Jason Moore, who had been on the pitch for a few short minutes, provided a defence splitting pass for Leon Strickland who took a touch before arrowing his shot into the corner of the net from inside the box, to restore the lead for Arnett Gardens.
Another Arnett substitute, Marcelino Blackburn, managed to get himself sent off but the visitors managed the game well enough to secure the three points that earned them the $1 million dollars for being winners of the regular season.
Winning coach, Jerome Waite was pleased for the result and to wrap up the ‘league title’ with two games to go.
“We have to give Tivoli credit. They came at us today and put in a stunning fight. But I have to lift my hat to the Arnett team. From the start of the season, this is one of the targets we set ourselves but it wasn’t easy.”
With two games left in the regular season Waite is likely to rest a few players as they get ready for the semi-finals.
“We still have a lot of work to do. We have to keep focused on the bigger picture down the road. We will rotate players for the two remaining games to keep players fresh for the semi-finals.
“We have two more games left before the semis, so we will take it one game at a time before we start looking at the semi-finals itself,” he concluded.
Arnett will play away to Cavalier before finishing off the regular season at home to Harbour View.
For Tivoli Gardens, the loss means the end of the line for a team that had a tumultuous start to a season that might not have been.