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SOCCER: More of a gut punch than a draw for Southington boys

SOUTHINGTON — Points are tough to come by in a highly-competitive Central Connecticut Conference. That’s why a 1-1 CCC crossover tie Tuesday night with Plainville left the Southington boys soccer team feeling a bit lost.

The Blue Knights are still searching for their first win of the season. Now 0-3-1, Southington will get another chance Friday in Storrs against E.O. Smith.

After leading 1-0 and then allowing Plainville (1-2-1) to tie the match a few minutes into the second half, the Blue Knights forced the action despite being down a man after a fight involving several players resulted in just a red card on a Southington player.

The Blue Knights ended up outshooting the Blue Devils 17-11 and six of Southington’s shots were on the Plainville net.

Meanwhile, Southington goalie Thomas Grazhdani was tested just three times in the match as the Blue Knights maintained control of the ball for the majority of the 80 minutes. 

Not even the scuffle with 13:30 to play turned the tide.

It did, however, leave a Southington player with a black eye. It also left those watching the rough play by both sides questioning why only the Blue Knights played the game’s final minutes with 10 players on the field.

Southington head coach Austin Magaro refused to comment on the referees’ decision to give a red card only to Southington. Instead, he left Fontana Field unfulfilled after his team’s lost opportunity to earn a full three points for winning.

“We looked at the schedule coming into the season and said hands down it’s the hardest schedule we’ve ever had,” Magaro said. “In the division we play in, against perennial state champions in L and LL, every game is going to be a battle.

“But there are games on the schedule that we look at and say these are the ones we can get points, we can get results. Today was one of those days,” Magaro continued. “One of our goals every year is to make the state tournament — and it’s there. You just have to take care of the results when you get these opportunities.” 

Southington plays in the CCC West, which features yearly state contenders Avon, Simsbury, Hall, Farmington and Glastonbury. The Blue Knights have already lost to Avon (2-0) and Farmington (5-1) and still have Hall, Simsbury and Glastonbury ahead on the schedule.

On Tuesday night against Plainville, Alex McDonough’s goal 15 minutes into the match gave the Blue Knights their first lead of the season.

SHS nearly doubled its lead three minutes later, but Plainville goalie Ian Bravado came up with the night’s biggest save.

Southington senior captain Damir Cirikovic was fouled from behind inside the box. His penalty kick, however, was denied by Bravado, who guessed right when Cirikovic shot low and to the left.

“We should have won that game,” Cirikovic said. “It was definitely in our favor, but that’s just the game of soccer.

“One team has a lot of chances and the other team has a couple chances and gets one in. That’s just the name of the game,” Cirikovic added.

“I felt after (the missed penalty) the tides kind of turned a little bit against us,” Magaro observed. “We got down on ourselves. We lacked a little confidence. We let them back in.

“They had a good start to the second half and capitalized on their one opportunity.”

McDonough’s goal came off a nice slip pass through a pair of Plainville defenders by returning All-cConference senior Noah Panarella. 

“I thought we were going to go off that,” McDonough said. “I thought we had the momentum and we were going to just keep scoring.”

The ball found McDonough’s foot 10 yards outside the box. McDonough did the rest, sliding the ball past a diving Bravado.

“(Panarella) is just ridiculous,” Magaro said. “He might not score the goal, but he’s always going to be involved in them in some way.”

The Blue Knights had a few more scoring chances in the first half, but couldn’t capitalize.

Cirikovic, who drew at least two Plainville defenders — if not more  — all night, was fouled again ahead of the Blue Devils’ defense. His free kick from 25 yards out, however, was off target.

Senior forward Alex Longo’s chance deflected off Cirikovic in front of the Plainville net, but the ball sailed wide with just over nine minutes left in the half.

Junior Jayden Prinzhorn also tested Bravado with a shot and a Panarella cross also just missed Cirikovic in front of the net with 7:29 to play in the half.

Southington’s final chance of the first half came with 5:50 remaining when Dalton Messina nearly converted a misplayed ball by Bravado in front of the Plainville goal.

“We got the early goal, our first lead of the season. It felt good; it felt great,” Magaro said. “(Then) we had a penalty that could have put us up 2-0. That was a huge (save).”

Plainville tied the match just under three minutes into the second half. Sophomore Spencer Davenport took a pass from Mario Santiago and beat Grazhdani with 37:22 left in the match.

But over the next 10 minutes, the Blue Knights had the better chances to score.

Both Cirikovic and Messina had headers miss their mark, and SHS had three straight corner kicks prior to playing the final 13 minutes down a player.

Cirikovic, a four-year varsity player who led SHS in scoring last season, had a strong run stopped by Bravado with 9:45 to play. He also saw his free kick minutes later from 35 yards easily saved by Bravado.

“(Cirikovic) is very good, but the problem is he draws a lot of attention because he’s so good,” Magaro said.

Grazhdani made an easy save of his own with 11:20 to play. Plainville best chance to leave SHS with a win came with 4:03 to play on a free kick from 25 yards out that hit the crossbar.


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