AFC Cleveland’s knack for stoppage time goals lifted them to a 2-0 win against Fort Pitt Regiment at Highmark Stadium Sunday afternoon.
The Royals were carried by goals from Yianni Sarris and Gianluca DiFranco, and another terrific clean-sheet performance by goalkeeper Alex Ivanov. After starting the weekend on the fringes of the East Conference playoff race, AFC Cleveland’s six-point weekend against the Regiment have put them back in a contending position.
Sunday afternoon’s tie between the Royals and Regiment played much like Friday’s reverse fixture, with both teams generating a similar number of chances and play being mostly kept in the midfield. Also like Friday, AFC Cleveland began to pull away as coach Sesar turned to his deep bench to bring new life into the Royals offense.
The Royals were always looking for a second goal after Sarris’ goal just before the half and put the Regiment under heavy pressure with offensive substitutes Vinny Bell and Ryder Bell and DiFranco. In the final minute of play, the Regiment finally conceded a second goal to DiFranco to put the game out of reach, though they did have a chance to equalize denied by Ivanov while the difference was still one goal one minute prior.
First Half Highlights
Ben Truax had the first goalscoring opportunity of the match in the fifth minute when the Royals forward received a pass inside the box, but he could not control the ball in time to turn a shot.
Fort Pitt Regiment responded with offensive pressure at the other end and earned two corner kicks in a two-minute period. Both chances would harmlessly roll out of play for goal kicks.
Brian Potoknic and Chris Cvecko nearly combined for a goal in the 18th when Potoknic’s dangerous cross into the box found Cvecko, who put a shot wide of Alfery’s goal.
A Coletun Long foul set up a close free kick chance for the Regiment in the 23rd. Jesse Scheirer stepped up to take the kick, but his shot was easily corralled by Royals goalkeeper Alex Ivanov.
Fort Pitt’s Nick Kolarac had an excellent opportunity in the 37th when he was found wide open in the penalty area. Kolarac’s sailed over the crossbar to let the chance go to waste.
A stoppage time goal from Yianni Sarris gave the Royals a 1-0 lead just before the two sides went to their locker rooms before halftime. Sarris’ shot was aided by a deflection off a Regiment defender that Alfery could not adjust in time to save.
Second Half Highlights
Sarris nearly got his second of the afternoon in the 54th when he broke through the Regiment defense and attempted a shot. The shot challenged Alfery, but the Regiment goalkeeper made the tough save.
Substitute Ryder Bell became active in the Royals offense in the 76th, challenging Alfery with a well-placed shot. Alfery once again came up big with a save to push the ball out for a corner kick.
Pushing forward for an equalizer, Fort Pitt created their best opportunity of the half in the 90th to test Ivanov with a headed shot from a cross. Ivanov made a fantastic save to keep the lead intact for the Royals.
Substitute Gianluca DiFranco sealed the match with a goal of his own in the 90th. DiFranco used his pace and fresh legs to push the ball into a dangerous area and slot it in the bottom corner of the net.
The Royals looked poised to score their third goal in the 90th, but Alfery made another incredible save in what was a fantastic performance for the home goalkeeper in the 2-0 loss.