BOYS SOCCER: Cheshire’s dynamic duo has a day at Lyman Hall

WALLINGFORD — After establishing an early lead, Cheshire held on for a 5-3 win over Lyman Hall in a high-scoring SCC boys soccer tussle Friday afternoon at Fitzgerald Field.

Lyman Hall was down 5-1 in the second half, but with two goals in the final 10 minutes of play, cut the lead in half.

Nevertheless, Cheshire prevailed, improving to 1-1 on the season while dropping Lyman Hall to 0-2.

“You’re only as good as your last game, and we lost to Xavier, so I guess we weren’t that good,” Cheshire head coach Artur Branco said, referencing his team’s season-opening 2-1 setback to the Falcons.

“We won today. So, today, we’re good. Let’s see what happens next game, so one game at a time. And we’re really not thinking too far ahead. Our goal is to get better with each game.”

The Rams’ offense as a whole played well, but it was Murphy Malone and Sanhil Banerjee particularly who stood out. The wing duo each scored a pair of goals and tallied a pair of assists.

Malone kicked the game off with three shots, two of which were on goal but saved by Lyman Hall goalkeeper Quinn Eyrich.

But after his array of shots, Malone broke the tie via his passing. Nearing 28 minutes remaining in the half, Malone crossed the ball into the box from the left side. Banerjee was there as Malone placed the ball on his teammate’s foot for a one-touch tap to score the game’s first goal.

This came within a near 10-minute stretch in which the ball mostly remained in Lyman Hall’s half. It kept Eyrich busy. He had three punts, all of which went out of bounds, resulting in Cheshire maintaining possession.

Cheshire didn’t capitalize on its offensive chances during this stretch. The Rams did, however, notch their second goal of the game with 7:09 remaining in the half. 

Once again, it was via the senior tandem of Malone and Banerjee. Malone, from the left side, crossed and Banerjee headed the ball into the bottom right of the net.

“I think my play-making is decent,” Malone said. “It’s something I’ve worked on because I know I used to not be very good at it. But a lot of it is I’m listening to teammates behind me. They’re directing me.”

Cheshire’s offense turned it up a notch in the second half, adding to its lead through Malone’s goal-scoring this time. Under three minutes into the half, the Rams sent a long through ball in the air and Malone positioned himself in the center of the pitch, right in front of Eyrich, for a one-on-one that put the Rams up 3-0.

Not two minutes later, Lyman Hall earned a corner — its first of the game — and cut the lead to 3-1. After a failed header, the ball trickled back to Devin Isufi and the junior fired one past Cheshire goalkeeper Michael Mayano.

Lyman Hall still had 35 minutes to battle back — if it could hold Cheshire scoreless. That was a difficult task on Friday, and Malone further proved the claim three minutes after the Trojans’ goal.

The senior scored from the left side following a ground cross from Banerjee, his first assist of the afternoon.

Two minutes later, Banerjee factored in again. After receiving a pass from Samir Dishnica, Banerjee pushed into the box and passed the ball to Marcello Pannone to put the Rams up 5-1.

“At the beginning of the game we could’ve been three or four goals up, easily,” Branco said. “We missed goals, not just chances.

“The difference was that in the second half, we capitalized. The first half, we didn’t.”

Cheshire’s 1-2 insurance punch put the Trojans in a 5-1 hole with just over 31 minutes remaining. And, for the next 20 minutes, it seemed Cheshire would cruise to its first win of the season.

That was until the 10-minute mark, when the Trojans crossed a ball in from a set piece from just inside midfield. After the header attempt, the ball fell to Blake Gibertoni, who scored the team’s second of the day.

Just 90 seconds later, the Trojans cut the lead again. This time, Anthony Cricco ran into a loose ball a few feet into the box and fired a shot into the back of the net.

All of a sudden, the Trojans were within striking distance, and they almost scored a fourth goal. With 4:32 left, Lyman Hall was pushing upfield quickly, but Mayano came out to kick the ball away before the Trojans could attempt a shot.

“And, 5-3, we had a couple chances; if you put one of those in, now it’s anybody’s game,” Lyman Hall head coach Arnie Jandreau said. “So I like the way we came back, (but) we started way too late.”

The clock timed out a few minutes later without Lyman Hall carving out another chance. Cheshire survived a late offensive splurge from its opponent.

Cheshire returns home to play its third game on Monday against East Haven (1-2). Lyman Hall goes on the road to face 1-1 Guilford, also on Monday.

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