If Monday night's Jamaican Premier League semifinal first leg between Waterhouse and Montego Bay United was a boxing match, then the hosts would have taken the first few rounds. Sprightly in their step, Waterhouse pinned the visitors against the ropes, so to speak.
But their old tormentors would not go down.
Pacey Montego Bay United striker Allan Ottey swung the pendulum with the first telling punch to the face, his strike partner Dino Williams followed with a nice body blow and Donovan Carey sent the hosts to the canvas with what was -- at least in this first exchange -- the knockout blow.
The scoreboard read 3-1 at the full-time whistle in favour of the team from Jamaica's second city. Even for a heavyweight like Waterhouse, next week's return leg at the WespoW Park -- not too far from some of the world's best coastlines -- may prove to be anything but a stroll to the beach.
Waterhouse actually started the contest with real purpose, and it seemed as though they were ready to exorcise the demons of last year's 5-2 humbling at the hands of their rivals in the final. Surely, this was going to be their time to make amends, which was probably high on everyone's agenda at the Kingston-based club.
The stage could hardly have been any better. A jam-packed Drewsland Stadium, the eyes of the entire nation and the rich bounty of a shot at Jamaican Premier League glory providing ample motivation. And when the bell sounded, it was the home team that was making all the moves.
Bustling striker Jermaine "Tuffy" Anderson's fourth-minute redirection came crashing off the Montego Bay crossbar as the hosts pushed hard for an early advantage. There was a sense of real urgency from the Waterhouse players -- too much in some instances. Evan Taylor's 13th-minute stamp on Keneil Kirlew, which left the latter requiring stitches, demonstrated from the onset that this was going to be anything but a friendly sparring session.
Montego Bay United remained compact, however, bobbing and weaving; slowly playing themselves into the game and in fact, should have taken the lead when leading scorer Dino Williams scoffed his volley at the back post with half an hour played.
"At halftime I told them to remain patient because Waterhouse could not maintain their intensity for the entire game," said Montego Bay United manager Dr Dean Weatherly, "and that's what happened."
The visitors found themselves in considerably more space in the second half as the Waterhouse players struggled to maintain their hard-pressing game. Allan Ottey -- who despite not being related to his namesake, the legendary Jamaican-turned-Slovenian sprinter Merlene Ottey, might as well have been a track star himself given his tremendous pace -- became particularly more of a threat as the game wore on.
He too wasted an opportunity to put his team ahead. After bringing a lofted pass under control and getting in behind a pair of defenders, Ottey didn't give Waterhouse goalkeeper Richard McCallum any work to do, tamely placing his shot well wide of the target.
His disappointment didn't last long, though, as the young striker once again beat the hosts' defence to glance a header into the back of the net in the 67th minute after some good work from his strike partner Williams down the right flank. Williams again connected with Ottey, who easily ran past the pair of defenders to collect a nice through pass, but he again let McCallum and Waterhouse off the hook with a unconvincing near-post effort that was easily saved.
Waterhouse were a shell of themselves in the second half, and when defenders Rohan Amos and Nicholoy Findlayson misjudged a deep ball after 71 minutes and allowed Williams to ghost in a low shot beneath McCallum to double Montego Bay United's advantage, even the fans lost hope as they filed out of the venue.
Donovan Carey scored the goal of the night, a 20-yard strike that almost took a piece of McCallum along into the net. Soon after, Waterhouse sub Andre Leslie scored with a low shot to the far post in stoppage time to give the hosts something to hold on to for their trip to the North Coast on Sunday.