Photo: Jermaine Johnson protects the ball during the Red Stripe Premier League match between Tivoli Gardens and Portmore United at the Edward Seaga Sports Complex on Wednesday. A brace from Johnson lifted Tivoli to a 2-1 victory.
Tivoli Gardens got the better of Portmore United in the Red Stripe Premier League Ash Wednesday fixture, thanks to a brace from their talisman and leading goal scorer Jermaine “Teddy” Johnson who scored either side of a striker from Ewan Grandison who netted for the visitors on the stroke of half time.
Tivoli Gardens went into their game against Portmore United following consecutive losses to start the third round and with the knowledge that they had lost to their opponents twice already this season. With just a point separating the teams at the start of the game, a win for the visitors would have seen them leapfrog their opponents as well as move two places up to third position in the standings.
With enough motivation for both teams to go after all three points the game got off to a surprisingly scrappy start as they struggled to cope with the gusty winds blowing across the ground. It was not until near the end of a forgetful first half, in which Portmore looked the more likely team to score, that the game sprang to life when Tivoli was awarded a penalty.
After missing two opportunities to score on the same play, Tivoli was awarded the spot kick when Kemo Gayle pushed Junior McGregor to the ground.
The veteran Teddy Johnson calmly slotted home from 12 yards as he sent Shaven-Sean Paul the wrong way, making it 1-0 in the 43rd minute. But the scores were level just two minutes later when Portmore skipper Ewan Grandison scored directly from a free kick after the Tivoli defenders had gone to sleep.
The home team returned for the second half looking a more purposeful unit and took full control of the contest.
Young McGregor should have restored his team’s lead when he was picked out at the back post by a beautiful free kick from Shavar Campbell but he was caught unaware as the ball floated over a sea of players and hit against his thigh and fell harmlessly to Paul in the Portmore goal.
McGgregor was again guilty of missing an opportunity to put Tivoli ahead after some fancy footwork from Johnson created enough space for his teammate who rounded the challenge of the last defender in the box, only to see Paul off his line quickly to snuff out the danger.
Tivoli continued to press and missed yet another opportunity when another pinpoint cross from a free kick by Campbell picked out fellow defender Barrington Pryce who headed just over the crossbar.
Moments later, Portmore United should have taken the lead against the run of play when Davin Watkins, who had been a mere spectator since the start of the second half, bobbled a routine pick up from a tame free kick taken by Cleon Pryce. The loose ball fell to an onrushing Jermie Lynch who scooped the ball over the crossbar from inside the six yard box.
Tivoli finally took advantage of the many chances they were creating when Jermaine Johnson got his second of the afternoon. Roberto Johnson tried to dribble out of the Portmore defence and had his pocket picked by the alert McGregor who passed to an unmarked Johnson who fired home into the corner of the net leaving a flat footed Paul standing and staring.
Miquel Ricketts could have added to his team’s 2-1 lead shortly after when he rounded the keeper but his shot was cleared off the line by an alert Damano Solomon.
With the minutes ticking away, Tivoli decided to protect their lead and found themselves pushed back by a hungry Portmore team. The visitors came close to an equalizer when Cleon Pryce whipped in a low cross that Tevin Shaw had to clear desperately off the line before falling to the ground with cramps.
The last chance for a Portmore equalizer fell to Ricardo Morris deep into added time, but his free kick from just outside the area went inches over the crossbar to the relief of the home fans.
Tivoli Gardens coach Omar Edwards was pleased with his team’s performance, especially in the second half.
"It was very important that we got a victory to ensre that the leader doesn't run away from us. It was a physical encounter. Defensively we lapsed when we conceded but all in all it was a good victory and a deserving one for the team."
Lenny Hyde, head coach for Portmore conceded that one defensive mistake cost his team all three points.
"Our defender made a silly mistake which cost us the goal. We tried our best to get back, we made the changes with four strikers up front to get back the goal. We had them on the back foot for the last fifteen minutes of the game but they defended well and I must lift my hat to Tivoli, they fought hard and they got the victory."
With the brace, Jermaine Johnson now leads the golden boot race with 12 goals, one more that Shamar Nicholson of Boys Town.