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SCARSDALE — With Aidan Murray recently returning to the Pelham lineup after missing over a month with a right ankle injury, it was clear that midfielder Charlie Livingstone was trying to force the ball to the star striker.
Pelham’s top two players had trouble connecting and looked out of sync during the first half of Tuesday’s game against league rival Edgemont, but they found their rhythm in a big way after halftime.
“This must be his second game back, and his first game, he didn’t even play the whole game,” Livingstone said. “We’re just starting to adjust again. In the first half, I kept missing on my through balls, and then finally in the second half, Aidan is so fast, all I have to do is put it in an area and he’s probably going to run onto it.”
The Pelicans’ exploded for three goals in the second half to come away with a much-needed 3-1 win, beginning a stretch of five games in seven days on a high note.
“It’s been a slow process, and it’s been pretty frustrating missing 50 percent of the games or whatever, but I’m feeling pretty good,” Murray said. “As the game goes on, you get a little more strength in yourself.”
Pelham (6-5-1) survived an onslaught from the Panthers in the first half, including a header from Tom Young that pinged off of the crossbar about 10 minutes into the game.
“I told them, ‘We put on a clinic in the first 20 minutes,’ ” Edgemont coach Mike Cozza said. “We’ve never played that well, but we just couldn’t sustain it. We had great chances. It could have been 3-0, but they held their own. The tide turned about 20, 25 minutes in.”
The game was scoreless at the half, but Edgemont (9-3) struck first three minutes into the second half when Young found a streaking Javier Casado for a 1-0 lead.
It didn’t last long, with Livingstone finding Murray on a pretty play right in front of the Panthers’ goal in the 46th minute.
“I just slipped it in,” Livingstone said. “(Josh Newman) made a nice save on his breakaway, but (Murray) got the second effort and slotted it away.”
The game remained tied until the 66th minute, when Wilgner Bruscargin found Livingstone for the go-ahead goal.
In the 77th minute, Livingstone sealed the win on an assist from Murray to force Edgemont to wait at least a few more days to lock up a League 2-E title. The Panthers will clinch with a win or a tie against Eastchester on Friday.
“We came into the season with big expectations, and we didn’t quite live up to them,” Livingstone said. “We had a lot of early losses and then injuries started to pile up. We were like 3-5 and it just wasn’t getting it done, but we’re starting to get healthy. We’re still banged up, but this is a big win. We needed to beat a good team.”
• Before the game, Pelham coach Terence Huvane told me that this was the first game that he had his entire roster available, as he had envisioned it in the preseason. Not only does he have Murray back, who has the talent to be one of the top strikers in the section, but this was also junior Otavio Basso‘s first game back from a hamstring injury. He’s regarded as the Pelicans’ best defender, so things are falling into place at the right time. The play of Livingstone and Murray was the story today, but they were quick to point out that this is the most depth the team has had all year. “I don’t like to gloat about us. I consider us to be decent,” Livingstone said of himself and Murray. “We definitely try to carry our offensive load, but Ricarti Basso is also a really good player. Me and Aidan get the goals and the headlines, but we have a lot of guys. My brother Eddie (Livingstone) absolutely works his butt off in the midfield, and Jefferson Santos, they work so hard in there. I don’t think they get enough credit.”
• Edgemont beat Pelham in the first meeting between these two teams earlier in the season, but Cozza said that he knew this game would be more difficult as soon as he saw that Murray was back in the lineup. “They were preseason projected top four, so hey, we knew they were a good team,” he said. “We got to them a couple of weeks ago when they were hurt, but they’re getting healthy and they’re going to be dangerous.”
• Huvane limited to Murray to about 50 minutes, and while the senior didn’t look happy whenever he got pulled, he seemed to be OK with it after the win. “I definitely get frustrated when I come out, but I understand,” Murray said. “It’s one of the those things. He doesn’t want to push it too far, and he’s not really sure of where I am physically. I’m not even completely sure, but I’m just trying to get back there for the playoffs so that we can get hot.”
• The most obvious thing to me about these two teams is that they both have guys who can put the ball in the back of the net. Young for the Panthers and Livingstone for the Pelicans are tremendous playmakers in the midfield, and each team has weapons up top. “I think their weapons touched the ball more in the second half than ours did,” Cozza said. “Charlie and Aidan are great players, and they had a couple of combinations together. They burnt us.”
• This was a fun game to watch because each team had so many scoring opportunities, but both goalkeepers played pretty well. Each finished with 11 saves, and Newman robbed Livingstone a few times in the first half, with one of the better saves that I’ve seen coming less than 10 minutes before the break. “He probably made the save of the season,” Livingstone said. “I don’t think I’ve hit a better free kick, and he read me for one, and then two he stretched out. I put it upper 90, and he just finger tipped it away. I was a little made about that, but they missed a lot chances, too. I thought we got dominated in the first half, so I was happy to come off 0-0.”
• An unsung hero for Pelham was sophomore goalkeeper Matt O’Neill. He started last season as a freshman after Vincent Mazzarro got hurt, but has been the backup this year with Mazzarro healthy.What a luxury it is to have a backup who can come in and play like that. “It’s really great. Last year, it was just him. Vinny was hurt last year,” Livingstone said. “He picked up a red card last game, and Matt really stepped up to the challenge. That’s kind of what we want with our team. We know we’re constantly getting injuries, so other guys need to step up. This is the kind of mentality that we need going into the playoffs.”
• Edgemont is still in great position to win a league title, so it’s fair to say that this game probably meant more to Pelham. It had been awhile since the Panthers lost, while the Pelicans were a bit more desperate. Edgemont is still in line for a high seed in Class A, but I think today served as a reminder that Pelham could be that road team that no one wants to see (along with Keio). “I told the guys, ‘We haven’t lost in a month, so this is good going into the playoffs,’ ” Cozza said. “We’ve had years past that we’ve won going into the playoffs and forgot about what a loss felt like, so now we have two days to rebound from it and make some adjustments at practice. We want the league by ourselves, and we’ve got Eastchester on Friday.”
MORE RESULTS FROM TUESDAY
During the first half of Tuesday’s Eastchester and Scarsdale B match-up, both teams struggled to score.
When the host Eagles returned from halftime, Fulvio Salza scored on a penalty kick to help spur Eastchester to a 3-1 win.
“Possession of the ball was number one,” Eastchester coach Alfio Carrabotta said. “We wanted to play a controlled game.”
In the second half, the Eagles managed to control the pace of the game as Jheison Molina and Austin Capasso each recorded a goal. Nick Georgiou and John Wiley each added an assist.
“We were supportive of one another and made ourselves available,” Carrabotta said.
The team maintained a solid defensive effort against Scarsdale B. Joseph Biasetti had five saves and William Brown had four saves.
“There was a lot more game awareness because we didn’t get caught up in a kickball match,” Carrabotta added.
Best of the rest: Conor Glendon and Carmine Cicchillo each had two goals and two assists for Westlake in a 6-2 win over Hamilton. … Charles Hochfelder scored four goals for Solomon Schechter in a 9-0 win over Roosevelt. … Kevin Quito had four goals and two assists for Spring Valley in a 6-1 win over Clarkstown South. … Jason Juarez, Javier Salguerro and John Salto each had a goal and an assist for North Rockland as it bested Clarkstown North 4-1. … Frantz Point-Du-Jour scored the winning goal for Ramapo in a 1-0 overtime win over Suffern. … Demetri Boumis scored two goals for Sleepy Hollow in a 3-0 win over Ardsley. … Mahopac’s Ryan Conlin and Greeley’s Adam Siff each scored in a 1-1 tie. … North Salem beat Croton-Harmon 3-0. … Irvington and Hastings tied 2-2.
Photos by Carucha L. Meuse/Video by Vincent Z. Mercogliano