By Jay Mwamba
In a sneak preview of their League Cup quarterfinal tussle next spring, Shamrock and New York Albanians went at each other for 90 minutes last Sunday before splitting points in an exciting 2-2 draw at Msgr. McClancy High School in Queens.
The hard-running Shamrocks, who came from a goal behind to lead 2-1 in the second half, were denied victory by Blas Cardozo’s equalizer in the 75th minute.
The result cost the undefeated Albanians (6-0-3, 22 points) the First Division leadership, while confirming the parity between the two Cosmopolitan Soccer League clubs following their 1-1 draw in the season opener last September.
“End-to-end stuff for 90 minutes. We should have beat them,” Shamrocks coach Billy Henderson said of the match watched by scores of fans from both sides.
Albanians drew first blood, the prolific scoring Rocky Bojovic (20th) burying the ball in the net after a breach on the Shamrock left flank.
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The Rocks reacted by ratcheting up the pace, albeit failing to reap immediate dividend. Jamaican ace Hughie Daly and Tim Cummins both saw efforts come off the woodwork, while Johan Lannon blasted a close-range rebound off target.
The Albanians’ lead held until two minutes after the interval. Jamie O’Driscoll, on for Lannon on resumption, made a sudden impact with his first touch, a cross from the left side that Cummins volleyed home.
The goal was like a shot of adrenaline for Shamrock. They continued to pressure the Albanians and were rewarded with a second goal 15 minutes later, when Daly finished off a Paddy Gerathy cross.
It was now Albanians’ turn to fight back. The home team, however, did a good job of containing them until the ref called a foul on an ‘rial duel outside the Shamrock box.
Cardozo leveled from the ensuing free kick.
“Just a great game,” noted Henderson. “Very physical, very good quality, really fast paced, and a joy to watch.”
Shamrock (3-2-5, 14) remain fifth in the 10-club First Division, nine points adrift of new leaders Pancyprian Freedoms.
Decu Costea (two) and Anastasious Polydefikis led Pancyprian to a 3-1 win over CD Iberia at St. John’s University. Iberia’s reserves lost 4-1.
John Walsh and Aidan Welsh connected twice, while John Guildea added another goal in the Shamrock reserves’ 5-1 rout of Albanians’ second team.
Henderson named Ronan Creaney MVP in the reserve fixture.
“He’s on the verge of coming into the first team as a defensive midfielder,” Henderson said. “He’s like a brick wall.”
In Metro Div. I, Brian Ruina struck for Shamrock’s third team in a 3-1 loss to Gotham at Wards Island. Tom Stefanowski, Keith Buckholz and Danny Voicescu starred for Gotham.
Shamrock (3-4-2, 11) are fourth, 9 points behind joint leaders Astoria Gaels and Roosevelt Island International. The latter drew 0-0 with Barnstonworth Rovers.
Gaels (6-1-2, 20) blew an opportunity to take sole position of first place after scrapping a 2-2 tie with second from the bottom Krimean Turkish (7) at Red Hook.
Ali Gul (55th, 65th) netted both Krimean goals. “We could have done better,” Krimean manager Metin Takil rued. “We were leading 2-0 and let them get away.”
St. Barnabas produced a blazing second-half performance at SUNY-Purchase to thrash United Bulgaria 7-3 in Metro Div. II.
The teams were tied 3-3 at half time before the Saints tightened up their defense and came out breathing fire in the second half.
Vinnie Norton (5th, 50th, 55th) bagged a hat trick, while John O’Driscoll (15th, 70th) pitched in with a brace. Jonathan Daly and Ray Barrett also tallied.
“We gave away three silly goals in the first half, but once we got two goals in the second half, they collapsed,” Aidan Dennis said.
Wayne Campbell, Johan Murphy and George Truska were the Bulgarian marksmen.
First place Lansdowne Bhoys’ injury woes returned to haunt them at Wards Island where Kandia ended their nine-game unbeaten run in Metro Div. II with an emphatic 6-1 victory.
Sean Hall (55th) had the Bhoys’ only response to the deluge of goals by Keegan Peter, Lathan Mattis, David Taylor, Joseph Amoh (two) and Lennox Brown.
Like the previous week, when Ripensia Romania halted the Bhoys’ winning streak with a 2-1 result in the Saunders Cup, the Bronx outfit fielded a side severely depleted by injuries to key players.
Among the missing were top scorer Mario Ramirez, center half Brian Curran, striker Paddy McAleer and right back Eugene Doherty.
“We’re stretched a bit thin at the moment, but they’re a good team,” conceded coach Eamon Duffy. “When you play a good team, you need to put out your best side out there.”
Still, even in their hobbled shape, Lansdowne earned props from Kandia. “That’s a real tough team,” club president Peter Reid said.
Elsewhere in Metro Div. II, ASA McCarthy got free points in a 2-0 forfeit victory over United Turks, who were a no-show at Wards Island.
Danny Shields’s brace snatched a 2-1 victory for Brooklyn Celtic over hard-fighting Guyana Veterans “A” with five minutes to spare in their Over-30 clash at the Shore Road Field.
Shields opened the scoring in the fifth minute and after Guyana had leveled, got the winner five minutes from time.
“Probably the hardest game we’ve played in the league this year,” said Celtic manager Jim Murray.
The win moved Celtic (5-3-1, 16) into second place in “B” Division East, ahead of Brasil on goal difference, and six points behind leaders Pele Masters.
Brasil were stymied by an Ian Noble goal (35th) in a 1-all tie with Fairfield/Westchester United at Wards Island, Jose Luis Leva earned New York Greek-American/Atlas a 1-1 draw with Pele at the Floyd Bennett Field.
Steve Bodden, meanwhile, ended a poor run of form by Rory Finn’s GH Metros with the only goal of the match in a 1-0 decision over Central Park Rangers at Wards Island.
“And we missed about four more,” Finn pointed out.