The boys’ soccer schedule in the Peninsula Athletic League Bay Division was only entering its fourth game and yet Friday’s matchup between visiting South City and host Burlingame shaped up as a key fixture.
Burlingame, the defending Bay Division champ, got off to a 3-0 start in league play, while South City suffered a its first loss of the season in a 4-0 thumping at the hands of Menlo-Atherton Wednesday.
The Warriors could ill-afford another loss against another division contender and it showed in their play Friday evening against the Panthers, as South City won the rough-and-tumble affair 3-1.
“Definitely big,” South City head coach Manny Rodriguez said of his team’s victory. “Coming off that 4-oh loss to M-A, they wanted to prove themselves.”
South City (3-1 PAL Bay) caught Burlingame (3-1) at the right time as the Panthers came into the game banged up. Not only were they missing five starters, they were also just starting to get players back from injury.
“Our timing and rhythm were a little off,” said Burlingame head coach Anthony Dimech. “South City was a little hungrier than we were.”
The Warriors dominated possession and spent most of the first half in the Burlingame end of the field. But for the first 30 minutes, the Warriors could not solve the Burlingame back line.
Making matters worse, it was the Panthers who struck first less than 10 minutes into the game. Jackson Giovara triggered the scoring sequence when his hard pressure on the South City center back caused him to make a hurried back pass to the goalkeeper. With Giovara still pushing forward, it forced another panicky pass as the Warriors were suddenly scrambling to clear the ball away.
They failed. The ball eventually ended up on the foot of Burlingame midfielder Nico Flores, who had space. With only the goalie to beat, Flores chipped the ball over him and toward the empty net. Tyler Johnson was there to tap it home and the Panthers led 1-0.
Giovara, making his first varsity start after coming out late to the team because of football, was the Panthers most effective offensive player. While his touch seemed a bit heavy at times, it was his intensity and pressure that resulted in scoring opportunities.
“He put a lot of effort in,” Dimech said. “He was causing some havoc early on.”
Burlingame’s goal only seemed to embolden South City, which relentlessly went on the attack, eventually ending up with nine shots in the opening 40 minutes, five of which were on goal.
Finally, in the 33rd minute, the Warriors notched the equalizer. Eduardo Pedamonte, who was giving the Panthers some trouble with his speed on the right flank, used his tenacity to get South City on the board. A free kick from 30 yards out was sent into the Burlingame penalty box, where it pinged around before Pedamonte latched onto it and snuck it past the Panthers’ goalkeeper to tie the score at 1-all at halftime.
“We were trying to be patient,” Rodriguez said. “It was the first game for [Pedamonte] on the flank. Normally he’s a center mid. We wanted to put more speed on the wing.”
As the first half wore on, the game got increasingly physical, which carried over into the second half as the tackles started getting harder and the reactions more emotional. Both coaches received yellow cards because of insubordination and South City lost its starting center back, who earned his second yellow card and subsequent ejection late in the second half following a hard challenge.
But it was South City that got the ultimate payback with a pair of second-half goals to secure the win. Midway through the second half, the Warriors hooked up on another set piece. Again from about 30 yards out, Diego Arellano sent an arcing cross to the middle of the Burlingame penalty box. Livo Costa came slicing through and headed the ball into the back of the net for his first goal of the season to give the Warriors a 2-1 lead in the 63rd minute.
“[That second goal] quieted everybody down,” Rodriguez said. “It gave us the confidence to finish the game.”
Which the Warriors did with their third goal in the 79th minute. Pedamonte was clattered down — hard — to draw a penalty kick, which Arellano converted into the low right corner of the net.
“In the Bay, every point counts,” Rodriguez said. “Every game matters.”
Said Dimech: “It’s a tough league. There is not a huge separation between teams.”