Mauro Cichero and Zeiko Lewis were the catalysts behind a stunning comeback on Saturday, as the Charleston Battery prevailed 3-2 over Atlanta United 2.
The visitors looked in control, having taken a 2-0 lead as early as the 50th minute, but a spirited Battery side, backed by fans in the Regiment end of their new Patriots Point home for the first time this season, dug deep to find three goals in the final 30 minutes to earn the three points.
In what would be indicative of the entire first half, Atlanta forced a succession of corners early on, but the Battery were equal to every one.
But then, Atlanta would make the best of their quick start. After six minutes, Coleman Gannon would square the ball for Macky Diop, who took a touch, and arrowed a strike into the bottom corner to give his side the lead from outside the box.
It took a bobble or two off the turf, but was a powerful effort that mostly beat Phil Breno in goal for pace. Nonetheless, the home side were a goal down, but with much of the game to go.
The Battery’s first chance to equalize came through a free kick on 14 minutes on the right side of the box. It was taken short to the top of the box, but snuffed out quickly by the Atlanta defense who went on the counter.
On 18′, Robbie Crawford‘s effort from the top of the box would fall into the path of Romario Piggott, but he couldn’t turn it in, instead forcing Ben Lundgaard into his first save of the evening.
Nicque Daley would soon force another save after a nice chipped ball into the box by Deshawon Nembhard. However, the ensuing corner would come to nothing.
The Battery would then waste a selection of half chances, before Coleman Gannon nearly added to his assist with a dangerous looking volley off a cross from Amir Bashti that looked destined for the upper 90 before it rose high over the bar.
Perhaps the Battery’s best chance of the half came by way of Romario Williams four minutes before the break, when he would steal the ball from a defender who had intercepted a cross from the left and put the ball into the net, but he was adjudged to be offside.
As the two teams went in at half time, it looked to be the same story that had plagued the Battery for much of the campaign, having created chances, but not found a way to capitalize.
AJ Paterson would replace Deshawon Nembhard at half time, with the need to find the equalizer evident. Nembhard had a quiet night, and had had trouble with Atlanta’s wide players. Paterson brought the ability to go two ways, which gave the Battery the opportunity to play a bit wider and push the back line further forward.
Another Robbie Crawford free kick created the first chance of the second half, as he found center back Leland Archer, but his header down was wide of the mark.
On 48′, Zeiko Lewis tried a bit of the spectacular, picking up the ball on the right of the Atlanta penalty area and looking to curl the ball in at the far post, but his effort was too flat to pick up the curl that was required and went wide of the mark
And the Black and Yellow were left to rue the miss. A bad giveaway in midfield by Robbie Crawford had Macky Diop leading an Atlanta counter, but Leland Archer met him on the edge of the box and able to shepherd the ball behind for a corner.
The corner that followed was sent in from the right and forced a save down low from Phil Breno, but the rebound was turned in by Atlanta debutant Efrain Morales.
The first save was solid from Breno, but there was nothing he could do about the rebound, and despite the Battery perhaps having the better chances, they were once again made to pay for not being clinical.
However, the match was not over, and in the 58th came a lifeline. The home side won the ball high up the pitch, and Romario Piggott found Mauro Cichero, who cut inside and left a defender for dead before curling a shot in at the far post.
It was a wonderful effort, and gave his team hope, but what would follow would be nothing short of spectacular.
Just 93 seconds later, quick buildup following a throw in allowed Angelo Kelly to find Zeiko Lewis with a driven through ball, and Lewis took the ball and made mincemeat of his defender, putting him on the floor with a sweet turn before calmly slotting in for the equalizer.
It seemed as if the Black and Yellow had found their feet, and as we’ve come to expect, it came with a side of special sauce from Lewis.
The Battery were the in the ascendency, consistently knocking at the door, but as they looked to find the goal that would put them ahead, Jack Gurr got on the end of a Macky Diop cross, only for his sliding effort to be turned behind for a corner that was wasted.
And then, as the ball was cleared, Nicque Daley was looking like he would be the first to the ball that had found its way into the Atlanta half. Though the ball was tackled away, Romario Piggott ran onto it with vigor, and drove forward, aiming a shot for the top right corner that just went wide.
After 72′, a Battery corner was initially cleared, but only as far as Robbie Crawford, who served back in to find the striker Daley at the back post, but his header went wide, and his blushes were saved by the offside flag.
Dante Marini and Arthur Bosua would enter the game shortly after, providing fresh legs and another focal point to the attack in search for the winner, which meant Romario Piggott and Nicque Daley would watch the final fifteen minutes of the game from the bench.
With twelve minutes to go, Jarad van Schaik would step into an errant Atlanta pass and eventually find his striker, Zeiko Lewis with a through ball, who again found himself bearing down on goal, only to have a last ditch challenge deflect his goal-bound shot behind for a corner, which was cleared.
As we crept inside the last ten minutes, the game was wide open. First, on 83′, Macky Diop would beat Kyle Nelson 1-on-1 before forcing a save down low by Phil Breno.
And then, on 88, Arthur Bosua would win a header at the back post over the on-rushing Ben Lundgaard, who came to claim and totally missed the ball, meaning Bosua had an open goal to aim at from the right edge of the six yard box, but his effort from an acute angle went wide.
But the Battery kept pushing. Inside three minutes of stoppage time, a long diagonal pass from Mauro Cichero would find AJ Paterson in the box, who picked his head up and found Zeiko Lewis across the box with a first time pass, for the striker to tap in for his second goal of the game and the game winner.
It was only fitting, in the first game at Patriot’s Point with fans, that the game be something to remember, and having been on the other end of the rub of the green a few times already this year, it was high time the Battery caught the lucky break their own way.
That said, the Black and Yellow had to work hard for this three points. They dug deep, and found it within themselves to fight back, something that supporters will no doubt take pride in and something that the dressing room can take forward as the season goes on as a sign of progress.
With seven games played, the win means the Battery sit on 11 points, good for second in Group H, though had the result stayed the same, three points for tonight’s visitors would’ve left Atlanta level with the Battery on points. albeit with two games in hand and more wins, which is the first tiebreaker in USL standings. That fact gives you a sense of how significant the win was, especially with a meeting with rival North Carolina FC coming in midweek.
That meeting is set for Wednesday, August 19th, with Kick off at WakeMed Soccer Park at 7PM. You can stream the match on ESPN+.
FEATURED IMAGE: BATTERY PLAYERS CELEBRATE THE WINNER HAVING CAPTURED THE ODD GOAL IN A 5-GOAL THRILLER AGAINST ATLANTA. ALL PHOTOS CHARLESTON BATTERY/BEN CLEMENS PHOTOS