Boston City crashed out of the National Premier Soccer League Playoffs at the Northeast Conference Atlantic White Conference semifinal stage in a 2-1 home defeat to Hartford City.
It was heartbreak at the end for the Lions as substitute Paulinton Johnson scored in the 90th minute as extra time appeared to be looming.
Michael Rincon had earned a 23rd minute lead, rifling home a long pass from Jadson Leite, but Rafael Junqueira equalized with a free header at a corner eight minutes later.
Both sides had chances to steal the right to travel to Kingston Stockade in the conference final this Saturday, and it was Boston City who were guilty of the most costly missed opportunities.
A volley of shots a minute before halftime saw an Isaac Nana Addai effort superbly parried away by Hartford keeper Hami Kara, Filipe Dutra’s shot from the rebound was blocked, Addai saw a snap shot bounce back off the crossbar and Gilly De Souza fired over.
Addai and Homero Morais had chances to win it on the break in the second half, but fired wide of the target and it was Johnson who emerged as the hero as he was allowed to turn on the edge of the penalty area as defenders backed off and gave Vitor Scariot no chance with his late winner.
The much-anticipated match had been delayed 90 minutes due to a severe thunderstorm that swept through Boston before the planned 8:00 pm kickoff time and for the fans who braved the elements, the two teams served up a tense but flowing contest.
Within the opening ten minutes, Dutra fired at Kara and Rincon found the side netting for the Lions. In reply, Junqueira directed a cross over the bar with the home defense caught flat-footed and then the sides traded goals.
Captain Ronaldo Vieira released Addai after 66 minutes and the team’s top scorer fired uncharacteristically wide, then ten minutes later Morais opted to shoot rather than play in Addai and also missed the target.
Hartford might have won it five minutes from time when Johnson and Christopher Brooks exchanged passes after Pedro Silva had been caught in possession and Felipe Bernardo’s finish was deflected wide as Marcelo Cunha made a timely intervention.
But there was no denying Johnson, who sparked delirious celebrations among the noisy traveling Hartford City fans as they celebrated moving on in the playoffs.