BRISTOL - The Bristol Eastern/Bristol Central boys soccer rivalry penned another chapter in its long tradition of competitive battles on Monday afternoon; and of course, it needed overtime.
For the fourth time in their last five meetings, the Rams and Lancers fought through extra time and settled on a 1-1 tie after an open look from Eastern’s Dominik Femiak banged off the crossbar with less than three minutes left in the final overtime period, ending a flurry of chances for the Lancers before the final whistle.
“They had a couple chances, but I had full confidence that we would get through it,” Central’s Carson Rivoira said of the late pressure the Rams faced before securing the draw. “We did, but we’re kind of disappointed that we didn’t get the win. But we’ll get them next time.”
Central (5-2-1) had Eastern (6-0-2) in an unfamiliar place in the first half, holding a halftime lead over a Lancers team that had trailed only once before in the regular season; but Eastern came out with a spirited second half effort to tie the game and come within inches of grabbing the win.
“The second half was us,” Eastern head coach Bill Sweet said. “They were the hungrier team in the first half, but I thought we were the better team in the second half. I liked our second half effort.”
After early pressure from Central, the Lancers began to apply pressure 15 minutes into the first half when a throw-in bounced right in front of Joe Verardi, who fired a shot from just outside the goal area that was blocked by Central’s Umar Malick.
Minutes later, another throw-in near the Rams’ net came to Connor Policarpio, who got off a good shot that tailed just wide of the net to keep the game scoreless.
Central went back on the attack and with 14:31 remaining in the first half, Mark Palma lifted a high kick to David Bowes, who knocked a header past goalkeeper Nate DiLoreto, who aggressively came out to try and intercept the pass, but instead the Rams had a 1-0 lead.
“The one time we did score we had extra effort on the sideline, connected three passes and got a foot down for a header,” Central head coach Nate Jandreau said. “That’s exactly how we want to play, but we just didn’t do it enough.”
Eastern threatened to tie it after a foul from just outside the penalty area with 10:40 left, but the ensuing free kick from Jake Woznicki glanced off a pack of Central defenders and sailed out of play.
The Lancers got on the board with 36:41 left in the game, when a high arching entry pass from Jonathan Loja found Femiak just outside of the penalty area, and Femiak poked a lob shot over Central goalkeeper Daniel Gaudoin and into the far corner of the net to tie the game.
Eastern flirted with the lead with 25 minutes remaining when Woznicki launched a shot on net from 20 yards out, but Gaudoin leaped and deflected the shot over the net to preserve the tie.
The Lancers dominated ball possession into the final 10 minutes of the second half. With 1:50 to go, Woznicki weaved through three defenders from midfield and got off an open shot that curved wide and kept the game tied.
With 10 seconds left, Tyler Borry got off a header following a corner kick that banged off the crossbar, ending a furious stretch of scoring chances for Eastern and sending the game to overtime.
With 1:17 left in the first overtime period, Woznicki had another chance on a turnaround shot from 10 yards out, but again it went wide. With 2:42 left in the final overtime period, Woznicki sent a centering pass to a streaking Femiak, who had a wide open net, but banged the one-timer shot off the bottom of the crossbar. It bounced right into the lap of Gaudoin as the pressure continued from Eastern, but a lagging Central team held on.
“All in all, it wasn’t exactly the type of game we wanted to play,” Jandreau said. “They did a good job of muddying up the game and keeping the ball in the air, which is how they like to play. We couldn’t keep the ball on the ground.”
Eastern remained undefeated with the tie, but knows it came close to its first loss of the season thanks to another grind-it-out contest against its crosstown foe.
“Central is a good team,” Sweet said. “They’re one of the best teams we’ve seen this year.”