Substitute striker Darlan Rocha stole a dramatic three points three minutes from time for Boston City as local foe and closest rival for a National Premier Soccer League (NPSL) playoff place Rhode Island Reds was defeated 3-2.
Rocha’s finish bounced in off the far post past the despairing dive of Reds keeper Joseph Cipicchio 25 minutes after the Lions’ most recent signing had stepped off the substitutes’ bench.
Boston City (7-3-2) now sits two points ahead of the Reds (6-3-3) in second place behind conference winners-elect New York Cosmos B with each having played 12 matches and the teams meet again next Sunday in Rhode Island in what is sure to be a fierce rematch.
Rocha’s strike was a fitting finale to an end-to-end battle that include a rash of cautions, two red cards to the visitors and Boston City twice surrendering a slim lead.
Reds striker Isaac Nana Addai, whose prolific form has torn through the Northeast Atlantic Conference this season, equalized a Michael Bustamante goal early in the second half and his breathtaking free kick canceled out a Homero Morais strike after 76 minutes. The Liberian had a chance to win it for Rhode Island before Rocha struck the decisive blow for Boston City, but was denied by the woodwork.
The first half was played in a frantic style typical of a local derby and with both sides creating chances to steal the lead. Morais fired over the cross bar in the opening minute for the hosts then at the other end the livewire Tanor Jobe was denied by a Gabriel De Souza tackle and a fine save by keeper Victor Scariot with the goal at his mercy. Scariot earned Man of the Match honors for his performance.
Bustamante saw a low shot roll wide of the target after a surge through midfield and as the action swung from end to end, Addai sprung the offside trap and Scariot was alert to save with his legs.
The tempo altered when Raniel Isaac saw a straight red card for a wild challenge after 28 minutes and only three minutes later, Boston City took full advantage. Bustamante blasted his sixth goal of the season between keeper Cipicchio and the near post for a 1-0 lead.
Two minutes before halftime the advantage was almost doubled, but Morais stuck the foot of the post after a neat combination from the Batistas, Jhonata and Samuel.
Lions coach Palhinha made a tactical switch at halftime to pressure the ten men, pushing attacking left back Egberto Da Silva into midfield, with Jean Carreiro coming into the back four for Guilherme Desousa and Daniel Souza moving to right back. Within two minutes, Souza was adjudged to have tripped Addai, who picked himself up and slotted home the equalizing penalty kick.
Scariot again came to Boston’s rescue after 70 minutes, denying a clear opening for Jobe on end of a curling Addai cross, blocking the ball with his feet when the Reds looked certain to take the lead.
Three minutes later, it was the Lions who went ahead when Morais drilled a low finish through a crowded goalmouth on the end of a Valerio Silva cross to spark wild celebrations among the Boston City faithful.
But three minutes after the excitement of a home goal, Addai curled a stunning free kick over the defensive wall to equalize. The in-form striker might have claimed a hat trick and victory soon after with another set piece that ricocheted away off the post.
Seven minutes from time, Da Silva forced a diving save from Cipicchio and a draw looked the likely outcome until Rocha had the final say.