CHAMPIONS Portmore United qualified for their fourth Red Stripe Premier League final in a row following a 1-1 draw with Mount Pleasant FA in their return-leg semi-final at the National Stadium on Monday night.
The champions booked their in the final spot 3-2 on aggregate where they will meet Waterhouse FC in a repeat of last season’s final. Waterhouse turned back Cavalier 3-0 on aggregate to advance.
Portmore’s leading scorer Javon East gave them a first half lead that seemed to cement their place in the final only for Sualae McCalla to respond for Mount Pleasant in the second of four minutes of added time to make for a nervy finish.
The game began with Portmore holding a 2-1 advantage from the first leg, but surprisingly Mount Pleasant lacked the energy seen in the first game of the tie required to put Shavar Thomas’s men under real pressure.
Cleon Pryce was given a rare start by his coach and tried to find his range early, flashing two shots wide of the right upright in quick succession.
Mount Pleasant’s first leg hero Jourdaine Fletcher, tried to busy himself, but lacked the penetration in attack of a week ego.
A beautiful give and go between East and the young Emelio Rousseau down the left channel saw the St George’s College Manning Cup player delivering a precise pass into the path of East, who had a simple tap-in for his 12th goal of the season.
Fletcher then fired off a shot that brought out the best from Shaven Paul as the champions protected their two-goal cushion.
Pryce should have been among the goals when East brilliantly brought the ball under control and laid it on a platter for his strike partner, but it was a case of another shot being fired wide of the target as Portmore took a 3-1 aggregate lead into the half-time break.
Hardley Barnes had a chance to increase Portmore’s lead early in the second half when he ghosted in at the back post on the end of a Rousseau free kick, but could only find the side netting with his header.
Cardel Benbow then led a Mount Pleasant second half charge as he drove into the box, but his shot was charged down by an alert Paul. Donovan Duckie’s team finally started to show greater intent.
Francois Swaby, who was a mere spectator in the first half, got his first look at goal, but again Paul left his line in the nick of time to maintain his team’s advantage.
Ricardo Morris, who was introduced midway the second half, picked out East with a peach of a pass, but the left footer was unable to find the target with his weaker right foot as the ball went just high.
Kemar Backford was brought on by Duckie to try and rescue the situation and he almost did when he rounded Paul and shot on target, but had to watch in agony as the ball was cleared off the line by a recovering defender.
Swaby had another good look when he was played in by Beckford, but needed an extra touch inside the box and Paul was there to deny him yet again. The Portmore custodian, who was having a fine night between the sticks, sustained an injury to the face on the play.
Just when it appeared that the champions were over the line, McCalla bundled home an equaliser and reduced the overall deficit to just one as the aggregate score read 3-2 to Portmore United with two minutes of added time left to play.
Dead ball specialist Romario Campbell had a chance to become a Mount Pleasant legend when his team was awarded a free kick just outside the area in the final minute of added time, but his effort went high and with that the Mount Pleasant inaugural Premier League season.
Teams: Portmore United – Shaven Paul, Ryan Wellington, Damian Williams, Javon East, Osani Ricketts, Cleon Pryce (Ricardo Morris 64th), Roberto Johnson, Andre Lewis (Lamar Walker 84th), Rosario Harriott, Emelio Rousseau, Hardley Barnes (Roshane Sharpe 59th).
Subs not used: Damano Solomon, Venton Evans, Kemar Foster, Romaine Brackenridge, Rondee Smith, Donnedy Fer
Booked: Cleon Pryce 45th
Mount Pleasant – Joseph Vargas, Ricardo Campbell, Ladale Richie, Suelae McCalla, Xavian Virgo, Evan Taylor (Romario Campbell (80th, Ronaldo Rodney, Cardel Benbow, Francois Swaby, Jourdaine Fletcher (Kession Hall 77th), Daniel Green (Kemar Beckford 65th).
Subs not used: Kadeem Davis, Liston James, Kevin Graham, Latroy Laing, Kevaughn Isaacs, Kesslon Hall, Shaquille Notice ,
Booked: Suelae McCalla 30th, Ronaldo Rodney 39th
Referee: Oshane Nation
Assistant Referees: Stephanie-Dale Yee-Sing, Jassett Kerr
Fourth Official: Doyen Tummings
Match Commissioner: Fitzroy Reid