A goal in either half for the Charleston Battery completed the comeback over Miami FC on Saturday, with Zeiko Lewis and Joel Bunting providing the strikes in a 2-1 win.
Miami took the lead early on through Lamar Walker, whose quick thinking to put the ball under the wall from a free kick caught Joe Kuzminsky out, before Burke Fahling found Zeiko Lewis, who fired the Battery level. It took just six minutes after the half time break for the Battery to go ahead behind a shot redirected in by Joel Bunting. a Bishop England graduate making his first professional start, to give the game its eventual winner.
As well as Bunting, Patrick Hogan was making his first professional start, while Burke Fahling kept his place after a winner against Loudoun in the Battery’s last game before two weeks of rained out matches. He was partnered by Angelo Kelly and Robbie Crawford and AJ Paterson on the opposite wing, while Zeiko Lewis and Joel Bunting partnered each other up front.
And it was the Fahling who looked to have fashioned the first chance of the evening, when he got himself free on the left side of the area, but his cross was only met by the Miami goalkeeper, Connor Sparrow.
Up the other end, the visitors would force a corner that was initially punched away by Joe Kuzminsky, but a foul was eventually given on the left edge of the box. Kuzminsky would form his wall to his left, and they would jump as the free kick was taken, but Lamar Walker would take them all by surprise, playing the ball in low and watching it find the net to put his side in front.
Things went from bad to worse for the hosts on 12 minutes, when captain Jarad van Schaik would have to be replaced by Erik McCue due to an injury.
A succession of Miami corners shortly after that meant that the Battery looked under immense pressure, but after surviving the worst of it, came a life line.
On 23′, the Battery earned a throw in level with the 18 yard box. Burke Fahling received the ball on the run from Angelo Kelly’s throw, picking his head up and finding Zeiko Lewis on the bounce. Lewis took a touch to settle himself and then turned on a dime and wrong footed the ‘keeper with a shot into the bottom corner to equalize.
The goal was a little against the run of play with Miami having much of the early running, but such is the quality of Lewis, who has the ability to turn the game on its head, and this sublime strike did just that.
The visitors however would try their best to wrestle back the momentum, forcing another corner on the half hour mark, but it was the Black and Yellow who would find the last chance of the half. AJ Paterson’s cross toward the back post bounced before finding the outstretched Angelo Kelly, but he put his effort high.
So after what was an interesting half, the teams went into the break level. After a bit of a rocky start, one would say it was the Battery who were the happiest of the two teams headed in, but there was still work to be done.
And the Battery took the impetus. Just six minutes into the second half, a whipped ball into the box by Angelo Kelly found AJ Paterson at the back post, who slid his way into a pass into the middle for Joel Bunting, as the striker tapped home to give his side the lead.
It was a big goal for Bunting, a graduate of Bishop England high school, making his first professional start. A capacity crowd at Patriot’s Point went wild as the Battery went in front.
Miami did well to work themselves back into the game, just as the home side did in the first 45, and with 64 minutes gone, Joe Kuzminsky had to deny a tricky Adonijah Reid effort with his feet after Reid had made his way through the Battery defense on the edge of the box.
And then, with 20 minutes to go, 2nd half substitute Stavros Zarokostas thought he had a chance to give his side a bit of insurance as he went clean through, but Miami defender Luca Antonelli made an excellent challenge to deny him a shot at goal.
Miami piled on the pressure in the last 10 minutes as they looked for an equalizer, and as such, most of the match for the closing moments were played in the Charleston half. Though Miami had much of the ball, however, their only clear cut chance was from a long ball up front that eventually found Pierre Da Silva, whose acrobatic bicycle kick had Joe Kuzminsky sprawling, but the shot would go high over the top of the bar.
As the nervous moments passed, the referee would blow up for full time, giving the Battery their second win in as many matches, and their first win at home of 2021.
The Battery needed to come from behind, but can take the confidence of doing so forward as they next face the Charlotte Independence on Wednesday, June 23rd away from home. Kickoff is set for 7:00PM and will be available to stream on ESPN+.
TOP IMAGE: BATTERY PLAYERS CELEBRATE ZEIKO LEWIS’ FIRST HALF EQUALIZER AGAINST MIAMI FC. PHOTO CREDIT ROSS ALMERS PHOTOGRAPHY. SLIDESHOW PHOTOS CREDIT ROSS ALMERS & BEN CLEMENS/CHARLESTON BATTERY