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Shootout Heroics see Battery through in Open Cup win

Phil Breno produced two shootout saves, and Ian Svantesson scored the winner as the Charleston Battery saw off Nashville SC on penalties to advance to the fourth round of the US Open Cup.

It was a wonderful effort from Nicque Daley that put the Battery in front midway through the first 45, picking the ball up just inside his own half and using speed to beat two and three defenders before slotting the ball home.

Nashville applied more and more pressure in the second half before finding an equalizer through Kharlton Belmar, who connected with a Ropapa Mensah cross after Kyle Nelson would struggle to get the ball clear.

We went into Extra Time, and eventually Penalties with the scores level, where two saves from Breno and a shot off the bar from Lebo Meloto would eventually lead to Ian Svantesson stepping up and converting to his left to send the Battery through to the next round.

Nashville would have the better of the early goings, but it was Nicque Daley who would open the scoring. Daley, 18, in his first year in Black and Yellow, would receive the ball just inside his own half and charge into open space, leaving defenders flat footed and holding off the last defender as he opened up his hips and curled an effort into the top corner.

It was a wonderful individual effort from Daley, whose speed is definitely his best asset, but using strength to keep the man at bay and then to compose himself to score was almost just as brilliant, and as such, the Battery had the lead.

The home side kept coming in search of an equalizer though, and Daniel Rios nearly provided, forcing a save out of Phil Breno to deny a quick leveler.

Lebo Meloto nearly capitalized on a poor clearance just after the half hour mark, but was unable to finish, putting his shot over the bar.

On 37′, Zeiko Lewis would do well to keep a ball in play on the inside of the area but his shot taken after a bit of trickery to get around his marker would go wide at the near post.

A Nashville free kick only a minute later would be initially cleared before it led to a shot from distance that went high over the bar.

Jarad van Schaik would line up a free kick from distance just before half time, but though it looked on target, was well held by the Nashville ‘keeper.

And that’s how the first half ended. Nashville had the better of things throughout the first half, creating more than enough chances, but it was Nicque Daley’s brilliant run and a solid Black and Yellow defensive display that separated the two sides.

Lebo Meloto would find the ball at his feet at the top of the box after a deflection, but his shot went wide in what was the first chance of the second half.

Substitute Micheal Reed would take initiative as the Battery remained compact, frustrating Nashville as they tried to build up pressure through crosses into the middle. Reed, shortly past the hour mark and spotting an opportunity, took a pop at goal from distance which forced Breno into a save to his right. The ball was travelling at some speed and looked destined for the bottom corner, but Breno was equal to it to keep his side in front.

The home side would keep turning the screw, looking for an equalizer, and on 73′, it would come. A ball forward would find Ropapa Mensah in space, and his cross into the six would run past a diving Kyle Nelson, who managed to get a slight touch on the ball, but Kharlton Belmar would pick up the pieces and equalize and the back post.

In truth, it was no more than the hosts deserved. They had had the better of possession throughout the game, and while some stout defending had kept them at bay, the scoreline didn’t flatter them at all.

But with just over 10 minutes to play, Kierron Mason would drive the ball forward before playing into the feet of Romario Piggott, who would take on his man, open his hips and shoot just wide of the far corner.

Inside the final ten minutes came two great chances for a late winner from Nashville, the first coming through Micheal Reed, whose shot at the top of the box was blocked at the last by Nelson after an initial deflection had already left Breno diving the other way, and the ball was eventually hoofed clear.

And then, in the 89th minute came a cross from the left that was headed back across goal by Matt LaGrassa, who looked ready to celebrate before the ball went just inches wide of the far post.

We headed into four minutes of additional time, and the Battery used this to their advantage, looking to create chances of their own, and with what was the last kick of the game, Zeiko Lewis cracked the bar from just outside the area with a spectacular curling effort, before the ball was cleared and the final whistle blew.

Despite Nashville having the better of possession and chances throughout the first 90 minutes, the Battery held firm defensively and were dogged in their approach. It was enough for normal time, but extra time was upon us.

And suddenly, there was life in the Black and Yellow. a well timed ball found the streaking Romario Piggott, with five minutes of extra time played, though he would be fouled on the edge of the box by the Nashville ‘keeper in a very clumsy challenge that resulted in a yellow card and an interesting opportunity for Jarad van Schaik.

The set piece was put on frame and forced a save over the bar, though the ensuing corner would eventually lead to a foul, and the chance was gone.

The two teams traded half chances, but it would come down to penalties to decide the outcome.

Zeiko Lewis and Leland Archer would convert the first two for the Battery, while two saves from Phil Breno denied Nashville. Jarad van Schaik would miss the Battery’s third, firing over the bar, before Lebo Meloto would see his effort denied by the crossbar. This gave Ian Svantesson the chance to win it, and he converted to his left despite the ‘keeper getting a hand to it to send the Battery through.

It definitely wasn’t easy for the visitors, who had to remain focused throughout a grueling and sometimes unorthodox 120 minutes. And especially with recent injury troubles, the extra time and penalties weren’t exactly what the Battery needed before taking on the always dangerous Louisville City away from home, but they did just enough to find their way into the fourth round of the US Open Cup, potentially setting up a meeting with an MLS side in Wednesday’s draw.

The Battery next travel to face Louisville City FC on Saturday, June 1st. Kick off is at 7:30PM.

TOP IMAGE: BATTERY PLAYERS CELEBRATE IN THIS YEAR’S PREVIOUS MATCH WITH NASHVILLE. PHOTO CREDIT ROSS ALMERS PHOTOGRAPHY

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