Champions Portmore vs runners-up Waterhouse lived up to top billing

...Both coaches happy with shared points in repeat of last season's final

Observer writer

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

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A full house was on hand to witness the top-of-the-table clash in the Red Stripe Premier League between second-place Waterhouse FC, and leaders Portmore United FC at Drewsland Stadium on Sunday night.

The game ended in a 1-1 stalemate after Waterhouse's current player of the season so far, Tremaine Stewart put his team ahead with barely a minute on the clock, before Portmore's leading scorer Rondee Smith equalised in the second half for the champions.

Most of the Waterhouse fans were still getting seated when the hosts seized the lead from a superbly taken free kick by Stewart. The former Portmore United man made no mistake as he curled the ball into the top-right corner of the net, leaving Kemar Foster a mere spectator in the Portmore goal.

Jovan East was the first Portmore player to get a sight of goal, but he needed too much time on the ball and the opportunity was lost. Shortly after Rondee Smith was given time and space in the box, but his shot went over the crossbar.

Kenroy Howell should have done better when the ball ricocheted into his path inside the box, but he fired wide of the target and missed a brilliant chance to double his team's lead.

There was another glorious opportunity for Waterhouse to score when Stewart produced a beautiful lob to pick out Rafeik Thomas, who shot high and wide with the goal at his mercy.

Stewart continued to influence the game and came close to scoring a second free kick, but his strike from 20 yards went inches over the crossbar.

Akeem Chambers did well late in the half to keep his team in the lead when he parried a shot from Smith over the crossbar, after the ball bounced just in front of him.

Portmore United came out on the front foot and were duly rewarded when their two strikers combined to find the back of the net. Javon East was played in down the right channel and his lofted cross to the back post was met by an alert Smith, who slotted home his 8th goal of the season under the body of Chambers in the 57th minute.

Howell then missed his second easy chance of the game when he dragged his shot wide of the near post while having a good look at the goal.

Denardo Thomas thought he had found the winner late on, but was left holding his head as his fierce drive rebounded back into play after it crashed against the crossbar, with Foster beaten all ends up.

The hosts kept chasing the winner and had two chances to claim all three points. First a terrible giveaway inside the box by Roberto Johnson allowed Thomas a good look at goal but his tame effort was gobbled up by a grateful Foster. The Portmore custodian was then tested by a long range effort from substitute Damion Binns but was alert enough to prevent the ball creeping under the crossbar.

Waterhouse coach Marcel Gayle, while grateful for the point, rued his team's luck on the night.

“I thought it was a well-played game by both teams; we went in front early. I thought we played disciplined football, it was just unfortunate that we gave up a goal at the back post; but we are still learning, the season is still young.

“It's still early days, we are grateful for the point. With a little bit of luck we could have gotten all three points, but that's how football goes sometimes,” he reasoned.

His opposite number, Shavar Thomas was pleased to come away from a tough encounter with a point.

“We are still adding points to our tally and that is very important, especially when you play in a first-and second-place match. To come away with a draw is no problem and we look toward our next game.

“It's about improvement and today it was a solid game following up from Thursday, which was also a solid game and we are building on this.”

He was particularly pleased with his team's second-half response to going down to a very early goal.

“Our response to going down early was very pleasing. At the half time we spoke about what we wanted to come and do — move the ball and keep moving it and shifting their defence line…so that things can open up in behind — and it did in the wide area and we got a cross from Javon and a good finish from Rondee.”

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