By Jay Mwamba
On a quiet Thanksgiving weekend in the CSL, champions Lansdowne Bhoys blanked archrivals Pancyprian Freedoms 2-0 in a rescheduled fixture at St. John’s University last Sunday.
The win moved the unbeaten Bhoys [7-0-1, 22] to within two points of First Division leaders Shamrock, with a game in hand.
His squad plagued by injuries and sickness, coach Austin Friel trotted out another changed Lansdowne side for the crucial make-up tussle at Belson Stadium.
The first half was scrappy with Pancyprian having the better of the early exchanges. However, neither team was able to dominate possession nor finish on target.
The second half was a much livelier affair with the Bhoys upping the tempo and looking like the three-time CSL titlists that they are. Good attacking play saw Glen Reid, Konstantin Mollering, Anthony Grant and Ovan Oakley all come close.
Still, Pancyprian, a three-time U.S. Open Cup winner and seven-time CSL champions, managed to hold out until the 70th minute. That’s when, after a raft of chances and misses, a deflection from a Jonathan Okafor broke the deadlock.
Buoyed by the goal, the Bhoys kicked it up a notch and got a second goal 10 minutes later through Ovan Oakley.
“The Bhoys have another massive week ahead with the New York final of the Werner Fricker National Cup on Wednesday versus NY Polet and then a Manning Cup State final [against] the same opposition on Sunday, both matches away in Long Island,” said Lansdowne club president William McGrory.
Veteran striker Conor Hunter struck twice in a three-goal 15-minute blitz by the Lansdowne reserves who overturned a two-goal deficit to triumph 3-2 in the curtain-raiser at St. John’s.
“A great win for the Bhoys who started the game at breakneck pace and could have been three up in the first 15 minutes,” said McGrory. “Much off the first half was played in the Pancyprian half and on 30 minutes, against the run off play, Pancyprian found themselves up through a penalty kick after a good counter down the right side.”
The Greek-Cypriots carried that lead into the second half and added a second goal on resumption.
Then came the turning point of the match.
Reserve team boss Keith St. Ledger introduced Jack Legg and Colin Devlin and the Bhoys never looked back. What followed was a three-goal blitz in 15 minutes.
Artan Balaj fired in a low shot to the bottom right post. Then the livewire Hunter connected at the back post for the second before grabbing the winner with a half volley from 15 yards.
“Massive win and great comeback for the St. Ledger and Sean Kelly-coached Bhoys keeping them well in the title hunt!” Exclaimed McGrory.
In another make-up game in the top flight, Ben Gueye leveled for Manhattan Celtic in a 1-1 tie with New York Greek Americans on Randalls Island.
Matthew Vowinkel scored earlier for the Greeks, whose coach, Joe Balsamo believed that they deserved more.
“We had a lot of chances to score. We deserved to win,” he noted.
His reserves had swept to a 3-1 victory.
Mario Gagliano, Victor Kamara and Storm Strongin scored.
Federico Ghelli netted for Celtic ‘B.’
“Tough loss,” quipped Celtic player-manager Adam Darter.
Also on Randalls, NYAC’s reserves turned up in force to down Zum Schnieder ‘B’ 3-0.
“This [was] perhaps the worst day of the year to have to play, but we managed to get a good side together and it showed, NYAC boss Bill Saporito said of the Thanksgiving weekend clash.
“We got on the board via Chris Sutherland, who beat the offside trip from the right wing, then shot from the top right corner of the box into the lower left corner of the goal about 25 minutes into the match. Perfect shot.
“Our second goal was similar, with Brian Kuritzky releasing John Stamatis with a gorgeous pass and the latter finished with aplomb about 35 minutes in.
“It was still a game at that point, but just before the interval Zum had a guy tossed for committing two yellows during the run of play. The ref played on after the first offense, and the Zum player than back up the field and lunged wildly, earning a straight red.
“Zum came out with a lot of energy in the second half, but a Jon Hemmert. penalty at about 55 minutes pretty much ended things,” reported Saporito.
Later, NYAC’s first team beat Zum ‘A’ 2-0.
“Our first team has had a habit of dominating games without coming away with a result,” said Saporito. “Last Sunday we put it together. Alejandro Sucre got us in front with a first half goal and the guys made the lead stand up. Francesco Zanetti sealed it with about 10 minutes to go.”
Skipper Erik Bagwell added: “We put [Zum] under pressure for the entire 90 minutes and got ourselves into the attack.”
And in probably the shortest game played in the CSL in recent memory, Flushing FC and BW Gottschee finished off the last 16 minutes of their abandoned Metro II fixture from October 30.
It was 2-2 then when darkness forced the termination of the match. Dion Amvrosiatos had both Gottschee goals then and 16 minutes to complete his hat trick last Sunday on Randalls Island.
“Sadly [it] was not to be,” said Gottschee’s John Ryding. “The 16 minutes just shot by. I would say we had more chances but no one got a chance to play into the game.”
The 2-2 scoreline from four weeks ago stood.
Nick Kaloudis [44th] and Alexander Zoitos [57th], both off corners, had netted for Flushing in that game.
Jeff Durosier, Jackson Eugene and Ranchy Augustin scored in Missile FC’s 3-3 Metro II tie with Deportivo Sociedade on Randalls Island.
Missile [3-2-4, 11] are sixth in the nine-team East section, 10 points behind leaders Mr. Dennehy’s.