Serbs Surge to 3-3 Men's Soccer Final

The New York Irish Rovers are now in a second-place tie with East Hampton
Ivan Villaplana, a new arrival from Costa Rica, scored the East Hampton Football Club’s first goal 15 minutes into Sunday’s Division 1 game with N.Y. Serbia at the Ross School. Craig Macnaughton

It seemed like a defeat, though Sunday’s Long Island Soccer Football League game here between N.Y. Serbia, a Queens team, and the East Hampton Football Club ended in a tie, at 3-3.

At the same site, the Ross School, last year, East Hampton shut out the Serbs 3-0, and, in fact, the locals had built up a seemingly insurmountable 3-0 lead in Sunday’s clash, with most of the second half yet to play.

Oh, and it should be added that the visitors played a man-down for 15 minutes of the first half and all of the second — the ejection meted out after N.Y. Serbia’s tallest defender decked John Romero Jr. with a punch as they jostled for position in front of East Hampton’s goal prior to a N.Y. Serbia free kick.

The list of East Hampton’s missing was long, including Jose Almansa, a stellar defender, said to be in Colombia at the moment, though, despite his absence, East Hampton’s defenders, Andy Gonzalez, Mathew Romero, and Rodolfo Marin, played — aside from momentary lapses — quite well. Carlos Barahona, who was formidable in the goal, as always, did not deserve the result, which may have complicated East Hampton’s playoff chances.

As East Hampton was playing to a tie, the New York Irish Rovers were defeating front-running Glen Cove Avellino 2-0, which enabled the Rovers to move into a second-place tie with East Hampton, at 28 points each. Glen Cove leads Flight A’s five teams with 32 points. East Hampton is to play Glen Cove this Sunday at Flushing Memorial High School at 4 p.m.

Luis Barrera, who coached on Sunday, said, when asked to account for recent losses, that the team has not been traveling well. It could muster only eight players for an away game with Real New York, which it lost 7-0. Of course, the demands of work were pressing at this time of year, he said.

Back to Sunday’s game, the team’s newest addition, Ivan Villaplana, recently arrived here from Costa Rica, made his presence known with a spot-on, chest-high shot from 25 yards out six minutes into the fray, a shot that the visitors’ goalie barely parried with a one-handed save.

Barahona, facing a stiff headwind, was kept busy in the opening minutes too. By the time Villaplana launched his shot, Barahona had watched a couple of credible bids zip wide of the posts and had made a great point-blank save off a corner kick. 

Following Serbia’s third corner kick, East Hampton’s forwards countered with an attack that Villaplana finished with a 15-yard rocket into the left corner of the visitors’ nets.

Villaplana almost got another in the 19th minute, when, during the course of a corner kick play, he sent a ground-hugger just wide right after the ball had come out to him.

Not to worry: A minute later, East Hampton made it 2-0 on a goal by Jefferson Ramirez, the center forward, who, after receiving a pass from Xavi Piedramartel, and ignoring the latter’s plea to pass it back to him, took aim and sent a hard, low shot from the left side into the far right corner.

The aforementioned punching incident and ejection ensued — in the wake of which Serbia’s assistant coach erupted, saying, among other things, that the team hadn’t driven four hours out here (actually two and a half) for this, and that East Hampton’s players had also been committing fouls.

Despite being a man-down, N.Y. Serbia, perhaps further energized by the red-carding, kept pressing. 

Just before halftime, East Hampton was awarded a free kick just outside the box, and Barahona came up to take it. His low blast past a wall of defenders forced the goalie to dive flat-out, and, as he did so, Ramirez dashed in, hoping for a bobble. But the goalie held on and Ramirez was yellow-carded. 

East Hampton made it 3-0 in the opening minutes of the second half as Stiven Orrego cashed in on the rebound of a shot taken by Tomas Pulgarin, East Hampton’s center midfielder.

At that point, it looked as if the locals were on the way to an easy win. But Serbia, as aforesaid, kept pressing. A sliding tackle by Mathew Romero resulted in a free kick that Barahona made a one-handed save of, and he had just made another one-handed save before the visitors finally got on the board in the 68th minute, following a low pass across the goal mouth to Boban Velcanovic, who, after juking a defender, beat Barahona up high.

With seven minutes to go, Velcanovic broke away, and after dribbling through several defenders, dished off to another hard-charging Serbian forward, Dejan Tolmac, who, unmarked, slipped the ball by Barahona from close range.

Serbia continued to feverishly press the attack, and, with a minute and a half to go, it paid off with Tolmac’s second goal, which he scored after eluding two defenders at the left of East Hampton’s cage, beginning with his back to them and then wheeling full circle to beat Barahona to the far right corner.

East Hampton’s players left the field somewhat stunned, deprived as they’d been of what seemed like an almost certain win.