By MICHAEL LETENDRE
BRISTOL – The Bristol Central and Bristol Eastern boys soccer teams put another classic on display on Wednesday, Oct. 3 from Muzzy Field.
Over the first 40 minutes of the entertaining affair, there was plenty of back and forth action as each team took its best stab at the opposing team’s net.
But over the final 40 minutes of action, the contest was a little less structured but the Lancers finally took advantage midway through the period.
In the end, however, too many Lancer bodies at the Central net with 27:25 left proved to be a little too costly.
And it was a Nick Roberts shot off a broken play that made the ultimate difference in the game.
With Central keeper Evan Tavera out of the goal, the Rams’ defense blocked a clear shot into goal but the ball eventually came out to Roberts.
Tavera was still out of position as Roberts smashed the ball into the net for a score as the game became a 1-0 affair in Eastern’s favor.
“Roberts has just been unbelievable,” said Eastern coach Bill Sweet. “He has a point in every game we’ve played.”
Minutes earlier, Central looked poised to net the game’s first goal as Central’s Sean Heiser took a cross from just under 20 yards out.
Heiser popped a high shot at the Lancers’ goal but keeper Manny Calderon popped the ball up and it went over the net for an impressive save and kept the game a scoreless affair.
Central never quit in the game but that one elusive goal to tie up the fray never came.
“They played their hearts out,” said Bristol Central coach Larry Covino of his players. “They played their hearts out but my hats off to Eastern. They pressured, they moved the ball well. Their big guys in the back stopped us just about every time.”
“Their defense was solid.”
Regardless of the final score, this game was certainly for the taking by both clubs. But the Lancers did just enough to foil Central’s offense, turning every possession into a difficult jaunt up the field.
“What we wanted to do was disrupt their possession as much as possible and I thought we did a good job of doing it,” said Sweet. “That’s why we played long balls. They weren’t that pretty early but we wanted (Central) to turn and chase and get out of sync because when they flow, they can move the ball.”
“I think we got them off their game.”
Over the first half, the teams split most of the 50/50 balls, took credible shots at the goal but in the each case, that first tally proved elusive.
Nick Roberts, Andrew Malak, Austin Dias, Gavin Johnson, and Clayton Caggiano moved the ball for the Lancers. Meanwhile, Chris Dabkowski, Rui Cardoso, Trenton Matos, and Sean Heiser made offensive plays for the Rams.
Each team had two corner kicks over the first half. But Calderon and Tavera were up to the task to key the fray a scoreless event.
Dabkowski seemed to be everywhere on the field for the Rams while Roberts made some runs at the Central goal but that one breakaway proved elusive.
It was just plenty of back and forth action from there, with good dribbling, solid attacks and crosses that just missed leading to goals.
To start the second half, it was more of the same back and forth affair.
However the game was not as crisp even as the squads each had early chances to post goals.
But off an early injury for the Rams, which delayed the contest, the game’s momentum seemed to change.
“I thought we played better (in) the first half,” said Covino. “In the second half, a (Central) player went down, that kind of put us under. That was tough to come back from.”
The Lancers had three corner kicks over the first four minutes of the second frame but that lucky cross never materialized.
Certainly, Eastern’s offense was in attack mode as Central started the fray a bit on its heels.
“I would have liked to have a few more minutes (in the first half) because we were pressuring,” said Covino. “And then Eastern came out (in the second half) and took it to us. We had moments in the second half. We settled down, we moved the ball well but I think we started to panic and that forced us off our game.”
“We didn’t execute as well as I would have liked in the second half.”
Two minutes later, Central had a corner kick of its own but Eastern’s Ryan Chiasson failed to clear it and Cardoso controlled the ball.
However, the forward – who was harassed all evening by Eastern – kicked it into the side of the Lancers’ net as Cadroso’s shot was for not.
“Clayton Caggiano did a tremendous job on Cardoso,” he said. “I’ve seen (Cardoso) play and he’s magic when he gets going. We try not to give him any space. We scouted (Central) before and they looked good. They looked real good to me. And they had moments tonight.”
Later in the half, Eastern’s Nick Plachno put a great ball up the right side of the Central net but the ball just raced out of bounds as the Lancers were holding on to its 1-0 push with under 15:00 remaining to play.
Moments later, Malak took his shot at it from 40 yards out. But Tavera, like Calderon earlier, tipped it up and out for an Eastern corner kick. But that second goal was not scored.
With 8:55 left, Dias laid out a sweet pass off a free kick but the atttempt at the net went wide right as Central was desperately looking for a tying score while the Lancers looking for the killer second goal.
With 5:41 remaining, Central had another nice cross at the net. But Calderon came out and scooped the ball up to end the threat.
“I thought Manny was excellent,” Sweet said of his keeper. “And I thought (Tavera) did a good job on two of Malak’s shots. Malak hit some first class shots (tonight).”
With under three minutes left, Eastern and Central each took late stabs at the goal and even as Central had one last corner kick with 1:03 left, that one Central goal never came to fruition.
“I thought Central got a little tired there at the end and a little desperate,” said Sweet. “Of course, we got a little tired and gave up a couple of free kicks we shouldn’t have given up. But that’s what adds to high school games.”
“But we worked hard…I don’t know if we outworked them but we worked hard enough for the win.”
By MICHAEL LETENDRE