This match between the two top teams in the NPSL’s East Conference lived up to the billing as Cleveland SC and Erie Commodores FC traded blows, but it was Cleveland SC earning the pivotal come-from-behind victory behind Vinny Bell’s heroic hat trick. Bell’s second hat trick of the season dealt Erie its first loss in 2018 and bring Cleveland SC within one point of first in the conference table.
Cleveland SC suffered an early setback with the exit of veteran center back Coletun Long, who was replaced by Dan Manolache after suffering an apparent leg injury.
Bell excited the home crowd in the 9th minute by beating Erie goalkeeper Nico Neto to the ball near the edge of the penalty area and lobbing a hopeful shot that went off the top of the crossbar.
Cleveland kept the pressure with a beautiful combination as Bell sent a square pass that was dummied by Tom Beck into the path of Antonio Manfut. The Cleveland SC attacker’s hard shot was saved and cleared from danger.
Bell finally put Cleveland SC up a goal in the 32nd after a resilient attack that saw the veteran forward fire two shots before converting on the third opportunity. Bell was fed into the box by Admir Suljevic, was knocked to the ground, but recovered to place a shot left of Neto and off the post. Bell received the ball once again but had his shot blocked by an Erie defender before reaching the goal. After a clearance, Bell’s teammates found him a third time as he held off a defender and slotted his shot into the net.
The Commodores equalized in the 43rd after a failure to clear the ball from the box following a corner kick. Commodores midfielder Casey Bartlett-Scott tried a shot from the edge of the area that took a deflection off Cleveland SC defender Declan McGivern and sent Marijo Musa the wrong way.
Cleveland SC were lucky to not concede in the opening moments of the second half after a harsh tackle that gave the Commodores a penalty kick. Goalscorer Bartlett-Scott stepped to the spot and skied the chance well over the crossbar.
Erie Commodores FC finally capitalized on one of their chances in the 66th via a well-placed shot past Musa’s near-left side by Jack Simpson to give the Commodores a brief lead.
Bell tallied his second of the night in the 68th on a through pass from Tom Beck. Bell used his strength to hold off a defender and beat them with a quick spin move and deft touch to set up a left-footed finesse shot past Neto to equalize.
Bell showed up big once again in the 79th minute with a headed goal from Antonio Manfut’s corner kick to give Cleveland SC the 3-2 lead and Bell’s second hat trick of the season.
The Cleveland SC backline absorbed intense pressure for the rest of the half but held firm to see out the orange-and-black’s biggest win of the season.
Contributor: By Cleveland SC
Photo Credit: Tall Tower Marketing