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April 13th, 2003 -  League Game – Aegean Hawks 2 – AC Hellas – 2
Eager to wipe away the memory of a bitter 0-3 loss to the Dynamos the prior weekend, the Hawks took to the field against last year’s league leader AC Hellas determined for a better showing.  With starting keeper, Nick LaPorta back in the lineup after an impromptu absence against the Dynamos and newcomers Jesse McDonough, Ever Dinarte, and Duane Duke eager to test their mettle against an experienced Premier division side, the Hawks took to the field with renewed determination.

The game’s opening stanza found the Hawks continuing where they left off from the previous week.  Poor passing and an inability to switch the ball effectively left AC Hellas firmly in control for most of the first half.  Hellas continuously used short passing and effective switching to plague the Hawks unorganized team defense and threaten the penalty area.  The opponents took advantage of the Hawks’ deficient possession game and began to push their back line up into the offensive half of the field to set up a dangerous attack.  Several Hawks attempts to play diagonal balls into open space for forward Yuri Sudhakar and Chris Pirillos were met by speedy Hellas defenders who were able to nullify any dangerous runs attempted.  Hellas struck first in the 35th minute.  After a particularly solid sequence of controlled passing from the left side into the middle of the pitch, a Hellas midfielder sent a penetrating through ball down to the left corner end line to the feet of a streaking striker.  Inexplicably the cross found a Hellas player in the center of the penalty area, where poor marking left him with enough time to settle the ball and slot a low, hard shot past a diving LaPorta into the right-side netting.  The rest of the first half continued much as it had throughout the earlier part of the game and the Hawks entered half time down a goal and searching for answers.  

The Hawks were composed at halftime and quickly isolated some simple steps that the team would undertake to take back control of the match.  Team captain Richard Shaheen provided the motivational spark that it seems the Hawks were searching for.  Immediately as the second half began, the Hawks began to effectively play possession ball and switch fields, and in the process began to take control of the game.  The demonstrably different Hawks side was confidently poking holes in the Hellas defense with ease and a resurgent short passing game found Hellas’ team defense out of synch.  With the Hellas defenders taken out of the offense, the Hawks were able to threaten continuously along the sides, making several dangerous crosses from the foot of outside midfielders Marcos Araus, Tom Wasley, and Costas Christophi.  In the 49th minute, a particularly dangerous cross from Costas Christophi found several eager Hawks in the Hellas penalty area ready to convert.  Tom Wasley’s inaccurate, but nonetheless beautiful, attempt at a bicycle kick left the Hellas defense frozen and provided enough of a change of direction in the ball for central midfielder Richard Shaheen to provided some magic of his own.  With his back to the goal and the ball suddenly placed in the opportune location, Richard struck with a bicycle of his own.  While less textbook than the bicycle attempted by Wasley only seconds earlier, Richard’s foot found the mark and ball sailed into the open upper right corner of Hellas’ goal leaving the Hawks elated and hungry for more.  

Back in the game and riding off the high of the quality finish, the Hawks continued to apply strong pressure to the Hellas side and were dominating the flow of play.  In the 65th minute, a dangerous through ball was met twenty-five yards from goal by streaking defender Jon Knight, who arrived an instant before the Hellas forward to knock away the ball and upending the Hellas player who could not stop his momentum from carrying him into the play.  A controversial decision by the referee to award Knight a yellow card for his efforts resulted in the second AC Hellas goal of the match.  On the ensuing free kick, a Hellas player struck a low, knuckling shot in the direction of LaPorta.  The ball dipped, bounced off the pitch and then inexplicably off the chest of a usually game Hawks keeper, allowing a streaking Hellas forward to collect the ball in the ensuing scramble and net home an easy tap-in.

The last twenty minutes of the game saw the Hawks continuing to apply the same type of pressure that had rewarded them earlier in the match.  The Hawks midfield and back line aggressively moved up the side of the pitch to direct dangerous crosses into the Hellas penalty area.  The 75th minute found outside midfielder Araus poised to strike a penetrating ball across the mouth of the Hellas penalty area from the right side.  The ensuing cross was reminiscent of Beckham, a swerving ball sent with pace, perfectly positioned for a soaring Vince LaPorta, whose was unfortunate to barely miss the open net with his crisp header that was fired inches above the open goal.  As the game was approaching its end, Hellas was able to finally apply pressure with dangerous crosses into the Hawks penalty area, but the defense stood tall.  Hellas’ defensive domination over the Hawks attempts at running forwards into space came to a crashing halt in the 85th minute, when John Stephens sent a booming goal kick past all field players onto the feet of a blazing Thomas Wasley and Yuri Sudhakar.  In a chaotic sequence, Wasley was able to muster the continuation of the balls torrid trajectory onto the feet of a speedy Yuri, whose initial attempt was blocked by a lunging Hellas defender, but – with his angle to the goal dangerously acute - was still able to slot his second attempt past a stationary Hellas keeper who thought the young Punjab could only go far post.  The Hawks had come back from the depths of the mediocrity of its first three halves of the season, rejuvenated and ready to take its newly found form to next weeks opponent, UAE.

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Scorers
Shaheen - 49

Sudhakar - 85 

Assists
Wasley - 2
Saves
Baldwin - 3

 

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