The Ayer-Shirley boys' soccer team played to a 3-3 draw with Clinton earlier in the season. Ayer-Shirley almost squeaked out a win today, but fell in the latter segment of the second half to the Gaels, 3-2.
MIAA match officials decided to shorten the halves to just 35 minutes, five minutes less than the standard high school soccer is usually played at. The Panthers sported pink socks and a pink game ball in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
The Panthers drew first blood on a ball knifed in by Michael Davis to Brian Bechera to give Ayer-Shirley a 1-0 advantage in the 27th minute. Both teams would exchange scoring opportunities for the remaining 18 minutes of the first half, but none would find the back of the net. Ayer-Shirley went to the halftime intermission enjoying a slim one-goal advantage. Clinton had some quality chances in the first half but Panthers' keeper Ryan Coulter stood his ground in the goalie box, recording a clean sheet in the first half.
The Gaels would come storming back at the beginning of the second half, when freshman forward Bruno Padiha struck the ball on his right instep off both sides of the woodwork and in, tying the game at 1-1. Padiha's shot was one of great difficulty, sending the Gaels' bench into a frenzy. Ayer-Shirley was not deterred, as Bechera broke away from the Clinton defense down the middle of the pitch on a one-on-one with Gaels goalkeeper GA Massicotte. He screamed a shot past the line to reclaim a 2-1
Jeff Tetreault would get Clinton back into the game in the 57th minute on a pass from Emerson Rivas from the right side, knotting the match at 2-2. The Panthers defense appeared to quit on the play, as they thought that Tetreault was offsides. The Gaels racked up a total of 14 offsides in the match, the few times Clinton was on-side, they cashed in. Clinton did a nice job attacking from the outside in, with their quick passing and fancy footwork. Ayer-Shirley did a good job keeping up with the Gaels by cutting off passing lanes, but the Panthers did all they could with their slim depth.
Five minutes later, the soccer gods favored the Gaels again on a deflection into the net as Tetreault was in the right place at the right time for Clinton on a ball fed into traffic by Igor Rivas to give Clinton the eventual game-winner.
The Panthers refused to quit and pushed their midfielders forward hoping for a miracle ending, but it just never came. Ayer-Shirley falls to 2-5-1 at the time of publication, and is currently in the midst of a four-game skid.
Panthers head coach Michael Donahue was overall satisfied with the play of his team, despite some costly hiccups in the second half. "We played soccer the way we practice for a lot of the game. We got away from it a bit. All the players played their hearts out," said Donahue. "We had this game, this was our game to win. This is the second time we had the lead late in the second half. For whatever reason, we just couldn't hang onto it. We had more than enough chances, but we just didn't finish all of them."