Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Result: Firsts 9/20/09 vs NY/NJ Croatia (A)

NY/NJ Croatia S.C. 1 Barnstonworth Rovers F.C. 1

The Rovers were forced to leave 2 points in Jersey on Sunday. Yet, they created enough clear chances that they should – any other weekend Pugli and Jordan would have - put the result beyond any opponents. As it turned out, had they not displayed their quality and determination they could have taken the 90 minute ride home empty handed. It was evident that NY teams will struggle to overcome all the local elements and leave with all the points: first is the narrow grass uneven pitch, then of course, the local officials. The home team, instead of using the beautiful, covered, team benches, chose to crowd the near sideline, on the half where the assistant operates. That earned them a point on Sunday.

The Rovers dominated from early on. Their superior speed and movement was clear. Within the first 10 minutes, they had their first chance. Andy shot over the bar. Shortly afterwards, they thought they had taken the lead. Jordi put in a long ball to the far post, Andy tracked it down past the far post on the end-line, headed it back to the on-coming Pugli who made no mistake. The goal was awarded, but only briefly. The linesman next to the Croatians signaled to the ref, and the ref reversed his decision and disallowed the goal !

The decision swayed the Rovers off course and their reactions cost them 2 yellow cards. Just as they regained composure, Andy was clumsily tackled late from behind by the Croatian keeper as he poked a ball back into play. He had to be substituted - giving Lucas his first team debut - and may have sustained a knee injury. No call, not surprising, this time by the linesman.

In the second half, it felt as it was a matter of time until the Rovers converted their authority. Jordi supplied the balls in the box, Pugli found himself in the right places, but uncharacteristically could not find the net. It was left to Randi to finally open the score. Colin swerved in a perfect free kick to the far post, Randi arrived last and with speed at the far post and slid-volleyed it to the upper corner. Rovers 1-0.

Pugli seemed destined to make it 2 moments later, but he whiffed from inside the six. It was Jordi this time who received the cross, flicked it over a defender but skied the bouncing side strike.

Then, another Jordi cross found Pugli close to the far post, his header went over the top.

Croatia had made only 2 chances the entire match, when their midfielder was the first to a rebound at the penalty spot that he somehow hit over the bar, and a header that was first saved then cleared off the line by the Rovers. It was difficult to see how the Croatians could level the match. The assistant found the way. After a blocked free kick, the rebound was shot back to the box, Dirk – who was superb on debut at center back - turned and blocked the shot. The ref pointed to the corner flag, as did the assistant, originally. The Croatians yelled and screamed, the assistant raised his flag, and after the ref consulted with him, in-front of all the Croatians there, he awarded them the phantom penalty. Ben got a hand to it, but not enough to parry it. Rovers 1-1. Absolutely ridiculous !

The Rovers should have still won it. Pugli has another chance in the area, and in the final minute, Jordi broke in from the right, again, and found himself at the corner of the six with Pugli alone in the middle. He chose to strike it to the far post. The keeper was beaten, but the ball grazed both the arriving Pugli and the far post to end just wide.

The Rovers will build on the performance and the apparent depth of this year’s squad to face the league champions and State Cup winners, Greeks, next week.

Team: Ben Kartzman, Alan Alcalde, George Tagaris, Dirk Swaneveld, Mark Kushemba, Einar Benedtiktsson, Colin Marshall, Vidar Ekehaug, Andy Abramovits, Stephen Pugliese. Sub (all played) Lucas Werthein, Randi Lee