Borough of Manhattan Community College dominated the action and came away with a 2-1 victory over the defending champions, Kingsborough CC, in the final of the 2010 CUNY Athletic Conference / Applebees Men's Soccer Championship at the Metropolitan Oval on Monday night. It marks the eighth title in the past ten seasons for the Panthers (9-1-1), who are expected to be ranked in the top ten in the NJCAA later this week, as winners of nine consecutive contests.
BMCC used superior passing and ball control throughout the match, as evidenced by the shot count, 30-11 in favor of the Panthers. In the 21st minute, a shot by BMCC's Mubarak Sani off of a corner kick by Kevon Haynes was deflected by KCC defender turned goal keeper Stefan Krotov back into the penalty area and pounced on by defenseman Jesus Vasquez for the first goal of the game. The score was the same at the break, and into the second half when Panthers forward Klaudio Shala took a corner kick in the 62nd minute and bent it into the top corner of the net for one of the most spectacular goals in the 25-year history of the Community College Championship event.
"I saw how their keeper was not protecting the back post, but then I heard my father (in Albanian from the stands) telling me to go for the goal. I thought about it again and I hit it," said Shala, who was in the far corner of the field, closest to the crowd in attendance. "I have never scored from the corner in a game before. It was so exciting to do that tonight," continued the 2010 Tournament Most Valuable Player (11 shots, 1 goal), a 5'10" freshman from Lezhe, Albania.
Kingsborough (4-6-2) looked to be running out of steam, as the second half went on, "We have a lot of injuries as we go into the playoffs," said leading scorer Cemil Turan, who currently stands first in NJCAA Division III with a 2.3 goals per game average. "Victor [Tlepshev, the 2009 Tournament MVP] had to constantly come in and out of the game."
But Turan turned the game around in a heartbeat in the 82nd minute, with a indirect free kick that went over the wall of KCC players and into the top right corner of the goal. That made the score 2-1 with less than ten minutes to go. The Wave played spirited ball having gained some of the momentum they were looking for since kick-off, but Franco Legovich's team were unable to tally again and extend the contest.
"The effort was consistent tonight, and that was important for us," said BMCC head coach Afrim Lajqi. "We relied on our fundamentals to play 90 minutes and win the battle in the midfield. We did a great job on Turan, as he's the focal point of their offense. He got his goal on a set piece off an indirect, that's the only goal we gave up tonight."
"I swear this is an unexplainable feeling," concluded Lajqi, who was the starting keeper for the Panthers in their only two losses in the CUNYAC final (2002 and 2003), when he yielded only one goal in the two championship games. "I think it actually feels better as a coach, because I understand the journey much better this time around."
Speaking of goalies, Panther's GK Kenneth Bonilla had two saves in his ninth win of the season.
The season is not over for either squad, and more interestingly, the top two teams in CUNYAC this year will face each other again in the NJCAA Region XV Tournament quarterfinals on Saturday, for a chance to advance.
"We've got to play harder than we did tonight if we want to win on Saturday," exclaimed Turan. "We have some time to heal and we're going to give it all we have in the Regionals."
-- CUNYAthletics --