Jamaica Premier League

Jamaica Premier League (95)

Cavalier SC secured their third Jamaica Premier League title in thrilling fashion on Sunday night, defeating defending champions Mount Pleasant FA 4-3 on penalties at the National Stadium in Kingston.…

Dwayne ‘Busy’ Atkinson scored his sixth and arguably most crucial goal of the Wray & Nephew Jamaica Premier League season when he netted the opening goal for Cavalier FC against Arnett Gardens FC in their return leg semi-final at Sabina Park on Sunday.

With the tie delicately poised at 1-1 after the first leg, it was evident that in a match defined by fine margins, the first goal in the return leg would be pivotal.

The match was only 15 minutes old when Atkinson converted from the penalty spot to put the ball in the back of the net, giving Cavalier a 1-0 lead on the day and a 2-1 advantage on aggregate.

A stunning strike by Adrian Reid in the sixth minute of added time at the end of the first half then provided last season’s runners-up with a perfect 2-0 cushion heading into halftime. Keith Simpson's stoppage-time goal in the 94th minute was only a consolation for Waterhouse, as the game concluded 3-2 on aggregate in favor of Cavalier.

Atkinson was just 19 years old when he clinched the title with Cavalier in 2021. Having gained valuable experience overseas playing in Iceland last year, he hopes that the lessons learned in Europe will prove beneficial when they face Mount Pleasant FA in the final for a second consecutive season.

The designated penalty taker for Cavalier revealed that he was confident when he stepped up to take the spot-kick against Arnett Gardens goalkeeper Eric Edwards.

 He also emphasized the importance of scoring first for Cavalier to quieten the vocal Arnett Gardens fan base.

 “It was really important for us to take the lead against a team like Arnett, who have such a large fan base,” he noted.

 While expressing confidence ahead of Sunday’s showdown against the reigning champions, Atkinson remained mindful of the threat they pose.

 “I am very confident of victory, but Mount Pleasant is a very good team, so I need to put in a lot of work with the boys and stay focused for this one,” said the diminutive winger.

 Last year’s painful defeat in the final has been a driving force for Cavalier all season, especially for Atkinson and his teammate Richard King, who were both playing for Vestmannaeyjar FC in Iceland at this time last year.

 They both missed the final and are thrilled to have the opportunity to rectify last year’s disappointment.

 Atkinson admitted that it was agonizing to watch from afar and not be able to assist his team, but he is now ready to claim his second premier league title come Sunday.

 “I have no words to describe how I felt last year, not being able to help my teammates, but I was playing for another team in another league at that time. This season, we have worked hard and have been dedicated to achieving our championship goals.”

 “It would mean a lot to me and my teammates to win this season because, as you can see, there is a lot of talk going around that Cavalier only won the JPL during ‘corona time,’ so winning this one would be fantastic,” he explained.

 Surprisingly, Atkinson says he would have preferred to play the final at Sabina Park.

 “I would have preferred to play the final at Sabina Park instead of the National Stadium because it has a better pitch than the stadium.”

 The 22-year-old is gearing up to put on a show in the final with hopes of securing another overseas contract at the end of it all.

 “I believe that an outstanding performance in the final could help me secure another overseas contract, so I want to deliver for my team,” he acknowledged.

 Cavalier and Mount Pleasant will battle it out in the Wray & Nephew Jamaica Premier League finals at the National Stadium on Sunday, May 19, starting at 6:30 pm.

NB: The Jamaica Premier League final will be aired live on Sportsmax.

It is often said that it is not how you start, but how you finish that counts. Waterhouse, by virtue of their current vein of form in the Wray and Nephew Jamaica Premier League, has embodied that saying.

In fact, to say that the Drewsland-based team is rising to the occasion when it matters most would be an understatement, as they recovered from an inconsistent run in the preliminary stage, where they placed sixth, and are now in the semi-final.

Waterhouse confirmed their spot in the final four on Monday after they downed Tivoli Gardens 2-0 in second leg quarterfinal action, for a 3-1 aggregate scoreline, at Sabina Park.

Javane Bryan (14th) and Andre Fletcher (45+6) were on target for Waterhouse, who has booked a semi-final date with reigning champions Mount Pleasant FA. First leg action is scheduled for Sunday at the same venue.

With his side taking a seven-match unbeaten run into that contest, Waterhouse’s assistant coach Damion Gordon is confident, but aware that they will be up against a Mount Pleasant team with great attributes, quality and real individual talent. Waterhouse last made a deep run in the league in the truncated 2021 season, when they lost the final to Cavalier in a penalty shootout.

“I think our chances of winning are just like any other team before the game is played. So, we just have to prepare as best as we can for Mount Pleasant, which is a very difficult team, but again, at this stage of the tournament, you just have to bring your A game and come Sunday I think the better team will win,” Gordon said.

Reflecting on the performance, he lauded the team for character and fight shown on the day.

“We are grateful, we always take a hungry step towards everything and tonight (Monday) we did that. I think we started very well; I still think that we had some more chances that we should have capitalised on, but we are grateful for the win nonetheless. Hats off to Tivoli, I think they really pressed us, and I think they forced us in terms of testing our defensive shape and fortitude which came to the fore,” Gordon noted.

The contest started in a sombre manner, as Tivoli Gardens lost young starlet Nickalia Fuller with what appeared to be a broken right leg, after he went into a tough challenge with Waterhouse’s Shamarie Dallas. The physical and psychological impact of that challenge later took effect on Dallas, who wept openly as he also left the field soon after.

Still, Waterhouse maintained their composure, and later found the lead when Bryan fired home his 16th goal of the season from close range, after sloppy play by Tivoli Gardens captain Odean Pennycooke allowed Revaldo Mitchell through on goal to get off the initial effort that was blocked.

Tivoli Gardens came into their own and tried to play their game, but were unable to make their half chances count, as Alton Lewis fired wide from inside the 18-yard box, in the 28th minute.

Nine minutes later, substitute Lennox Russell, who entered the contest for Fuller, had Tivoli’s best chance of the half, as his well-struck right-footer from an angle, was kept out by Kemar Foster at his near post.

Waterhouse regained their attacking fire at the backend of the half, and found a second in time added, when Leonardo Jibbison’s cross found an unmarked Fletcher, who made no mistakes with a well-taken left-footed finish for his 12th of the season, which put the two-time champions 2-0 up at the break.

Needing a goal to stay in the contest, Tivoli Gardens went straight to work on the resumption and almost pulled one back a minute in, but Russell’s strike was again kept out by Foster.

Waterhouse went close to a third in the 63rd minute, but Denardo Thomas’s powerfully struck effort from inside the 18-yrd box, just went over the crossbar.

From there, it was all Tivoli Gardens, as the West Kingston team launched a series of marauding attacks in a sustained spell of pressure, but they found Waterhouse defence in a defiant mood, as they braved the incursion.

Besides Waterhouse’s resolute defending, Tivoli Gardens were left down by a lack of composure in the final third at times, as Justin Dunn hit the upright in the 70th minute, while Rodico Wellington’s freekick in the 85th minute was again blocked by Foster.

Tivoli Gardens Head coach Jerome Waite cursed his team’s luck on the day, but in the same breath, expressed delight with how the season went.

“The youngster’s leg is broken, which is really sad, and I am not one to bash referees, but we all saw what happened. Besides that, we created chances throughout the second half, but faulty execution resulted in us not scoring, and we also have to give Waterhouse’s goalkeeper credit as well,” he said.

“In the end, Tivoli Gardens had an extremely outstanding season. This is not something that anybody looked forward to, so I have to give the guys credit,” Waite added.

As the famous English proverbs states “When the going gets tough, the tough gets going.”

That’s the mindset of Arnett Gardens’s Head coach Xavier Gilbert, who is backing his team to not only overcome the Cavalier hurdle in the semi-final, but also to possibly go all the way in this season’s Wray and Nephew Jamaica Premier League.

Gilbert’s thoughts followed their 1-0 win over Portmore United in second-leg quarterfinal action, as Arnett Gardens wrapped up a 2-1 aggregate scoreline at Sabina Park on Monday.

Captain fantastic, Fabian Reid, was again the saviour, as he got the all-important strike in the 90th minute to break Portmore United’s heart and ensure the five-time champions remain on course for the final.

With the “Junglists” last title coming back in the 2016/17 season, Gilbert is optimistic about breaking the drought, but first they will have to get by last season’s beaten finalist, Cavalier in the semi-final, which kicks off on Sunday.

Arnett Gardens, who fell at the semi-final stage to eventual champions Mount Pleasant FA last year, lost 0-3 and drew 2-2 with Cavalier earlier this season.

“We knew it would only get tougher as we go on, and that's a given. But when the situation becomes difficult, that’s when we need to show our strength and stand up to it. So, yes, it will be another tough encounter against Cavalier, but we have to prepare mentally and physically for it, and then analyse how we're going to approach that game tactically,” Gilbert said in a post-game interview.

“But I'm happy that we got the win tonight. I thought we created some good opportunities, and we just didn't finish. We knew that it was just a matter of time, and we finally got it (the goal) in the end. I am happy for the players, I think they really deserve it, and it's a huge boost heading into, into the semi-final. They should be confident for that (semi-final) game, and we're just going to go back, recover and get ready for it,” he added.

It was a fairly decent, but goalless first half, as both teams evenly matched strides and had their fair share of chances to break the deadlock. Arnett Gardens initially looked more threatening in open play, but the best chance of the half fell to Portmore United in the 39th minute, when Alex Marshall’s glancing header sent Chevaughn Walsh through on goal, but the striker sporting the number nine jersey, couldn’t beat Eric Edwards, who left his line well to block the effort.

Prior to that, Chevany Willis’s seventh-minute freekick for Arnett Gardens, came back off the crossbar, while Keheim Dixon went on a break in the 10th minute, but was taken out by Portmore United’s custodian Benjamin Williams, who strayed well outside his area. Fortunately, the resulting freekick didn’t inflict any damage on the St Catherine team.

Portmore United started more purposeful on the resumption, and enjoyed a decent passage of play, but failed to create any meaningful chance to hurt Arnett Gardens.

Arnett Gardens eventually settled and should have opened the scoring through Dixon in the 54th minute. The former Clarendon College standout picked up a pass from Jaheim Thomas and had time and space to pick a spot from deep inside the danger area. However, his first opportunity came off the upright, while the second off the rebound, slammed into the underside of the crossbar.

Arnett Gardens again went close in the 66th minute, as Reid rose highest to deflect Philando Wing’s weighted corner kick towards goal, but Williams, diving full stretch to his right, got down well to parry.

Portmore responded six minutes later, but Walsh, arriving at the far post, failed to connect with Marshall’s cross.

From there, it was all Arnett Gardens, as they applied consistent pressure and had two quick looks at the target, but both Marlon Martin and substitute Shai Smith, misfired in quick succession.

However, the South St Andrew team inevitably got the goal their many fans waited for on the stroke of full time. Smith, with a cheeky play, orchestrated a tidy build up in a one-two combination play with another substitute Kimani Arbouine, before playing a perfect pass across the face of goal for Reid to finish his 12th goal of the season, and 86th in a dazzling JPL career, from close range.

With the defeat a tough one to take, Portmore United’s Head coach Phillip Williams rued their missed opportunities.

“I think we created enough chances but at the same time, I don’t think we were clinical enough to make the most of those chances. It was a game of fine margins and against a quality team like Arnett Gardens, you have to put away those chances, but the guys stuck to the tactical adjustments that we made, and we were in the game for a longer period it is just unfortunate that we didn’t put away our chances,” Williams reasoned.

Fairly satisfied with parts of their teams’ performances in an entertaining 1-1 first-leg quarterfinal stalemate, Arnett Gardens Head coach Xavier Gilbert and his Portmore United counterpart Phillip Williams are now hoping to build on the positives as they look ahead to the decisive Wray and Nephew Jamaica Premier League encounter.

A 41st-minute Philando Wing own-goal which got Portmore United on the scoresheet, and Fabian Reid's 82nd-minute strike, left nothing to choose between the two teams at the end of the opening contest, which was a tale of two halves at Sabina Park on Monday.

With the stage set for what should be an intriguing second-leg engagement at the same venue next Monday, Williams and his Portmore United outfit will be aiming to consolidate their first half showing, as well as to improve their second half approach, while Gilbert and his team are hoping to be more clinical in the final third, particularly in the latter stages of the contest.

The winner of the second leg will secure a semi-final date with Cavalier.

Williams believes the first-leg result was a reflection on the quality of both teams.

"I think Arnett played a great second half because we gave them too much space and they took advantage of it. But we did what we wanted to do in the first half, and it is just a matter of going back to the training pitch to build on our first half performance and try to sort out the second half," Williams said.

"The legs went in the second half, and we just have to look at that. It's the playoffs and so we know there is not much room for error, so we just have to go back and improve on the things we did well as well as to strengthen those areas where we fell short," he added.

Portmore United, led by the menacing Alex Marshall, were more spirited at the start, as they quickly signalled their intentions courtesy of a high press approach and a series of quick build ups.