A humid night in Yonkers saw a pair Cosmopolitan League champions square off in the first round of qualifying for the 2017 Lamar Hunt US Open Cup. It took 120 minutes, and a controversial penalty kick, but Lansdowne Bhoys took home the 3-2 come-from-behind win over the New York Pancyprian Freedoms to advance to the next qualifying round.
The game started out with Bhoys pushing the tempo early. Craig Purcell, who wore number seven, ended a run in the 5th minute with a right-footed shot saved by Freedoms keeper Nicholas Takany Jr.
The three-time defending Cosmopolitan league champion Lansdowne Bhoys looked as if they expected to win the game in the early minutes, making multiple runs into the box. However, the momentum shifted in the other direction as a 9th minute shot by the Freedoms’ Stefan Dimitrov started a run of play that looked hard for Bhoys to stop.
For the next 25 minutes, it was all Freedoms. The Bhoys were able to get a few more shots off including one from a 21st minute corner, but to no avail.
The Freedoms took advantage of Bhoys’ frustrations and kept knocking at their opponents goal. A 29th minute header by veteran Chris Megaloudis that just missed, would be a sign of what was to come. Just 10 minutes later, Megaloudis would open up scoring for the night with a goal assisted by teammate Adam Himeno.
Only a few minutes later, in the 44th minute, would the zealous Freedoms see their second player, Jeff Matteo, earn a yellow card. The first was in the 23rd for John Koutsounadis for foul right in front of the fourth official on the sideline.
The freedoms took a 1-0 lead into the second half, but the Bhoys were set to change the tempo as they used all three subs before the 70 minute mark. Sylvester Sikele came in for Glen Reid in the 52nd minute, Daryl Kavanaugh replaced Ansger Otto three minutes later and Conor Hunter came in for Jhon Estama in the 67th.
A minute later, the Freedoms’ Tzoi Tsarkani would chip a shot that deflected off the goalpost and out. But the Freedoms would keep the tempo high and it would pay off with Michael Palacio giving the visitors a 2-0 lead.
With less than 20 minutes left, the Bhoys would not give in. A Daryl Kavanaugh pass resulted in a 77th minute goal by Jason Gaylord, cutting the lead in half.
In all of the late excitement, Purcell received a yellow card in the 81st minute. Athough, the team would refocus quickly in the waning minutes of the game.
In the 88th minute, after quite a few shots, the Lansdowne Bhoys were awarded a corner kick. Kavanaugh took the corner and linked with Gaylord as the two connected for a goal for the second time.
With both teams desperate for a win, Freedoms player Adam Himeno received his first yellow of the night (his team’s third) but regulation time would expire with the game tied at 2-2.
The fourth official informed both benches that the game would have two 15 minute overtime periods with a short water break in between.
Aside from a substitution by Freedoms where Panagiotis Halkiais came in for Tzoi Tsarkani, the first half of overtime was pretty uneventful. Both teams hunkered down, trying hard not to make any early mistakes.
The second half of overtime saw a change for the Bhoys, as they controlled possession for most of the half leading to a flurry of shots toward the end of the overtime period. After several saved shots, the Freedoms goalkeeper deflected a ball high and out for a corner.
The corner from Kavanaugh would not have the same magic as his previous cross in regulation, but it still managed to produce a goal. With three minutes left, a foul was called on the Freedoms in the box but the referee allowed for advantage to be played and a shot was taken. The ref then awarded a penalty to the Bhoys despite the advantage was played, which upset the Freedoms bench.
In a game that looked like it would go to penalty kicks to decide a winner, Lansdowne Bhoys were given a chance to win it with less than three minutes left in the match.
Christiano Francios lined up to take the kick. The Pancyprian keeper guessed correctly as Francois shot to his right, but he could only grasp at air as Francois netted what would be the late winner. The game would end 3-2 as Lansdowne Bhoys were able to overcome an early deficit and take home the win.
The three-time Cosmopolitan League champions advanced to the next round of qualifying where they will head down to New Jersey to take on FC Motown in mid-October.