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ELIZABETH — The scene was painfully familiar for Scotch Plains-Fanwood.
Again, the Raiders played a nearly flawless game against Elizabeth; creating dangerous chances to find the net all game long, receiving tremendous goalkeeper play, and dominating the run of play. But unfortunately for the Raiders, they again shed tears once the final whistle blew.
For the fourth time this season, Scotch Plains-Fanwood found itself on the short end of the scoreboard against Elizabeth, despite looking like the better team in this North 2, Group 4 sectional final. All three previous loses to the Minutemen — including a double-overtime heartbreaker in the Union County semifinal — left Scotch Plains-Fanwood hungry and confident in its ability to get the best of their opponent when thinking of the prospect of a next matchup. However, there will no longer be another chance after Friday.
Elizabeth’s Emilano Caballero slotted a penalty kick midway through the first half after Mathew Giraldo was taken down in the box, and despite a ferocious rally — especially in the second half — Scotch Plains-Fanwood was unable to equalize in a 1-0 defeat at a frigid Williams Field. Elizabeth sweeps the season series, 4-0, and knocks Scotch Plains-Fanwood out in the Sectional final for the second year in a row.
“What are you going to do,” Scotch Plains-Fanwood head coach Tom Breznitsky told TAPintoSPF. “I think we totally outplayed them, in my opinion. But, you’ve gotta score to win games. It’s kind of unfortunate when one PK call is it. Our boys did a great job out there and I couldn’t be prouder of them. Elizabeth is a good team, and obviously the results that we’ve had in the four times we’ve played them... what can you say.”
Caballero’s penalty kick came after a physical play in the box, in which Giraldo could have been flagged, too, depending on how you look at things. But it was determined that the sophomore was fouled, and Elizabeth didn’t squander the opportunity, as Caballero perfectly placed the PK.
Aside from that one instance, Scotch Plains-Fanwood and goalkeeper Danny Coyle played almost perfectly the rest of the way.
With Coyle turning away every shot he saw during the run of play, Scotch Plains-Fanwood was held within striking distance all afternoon and had multiple opportunities — especially in the second half — to equalize. But all the Raiders’ dangerous runs and good-looking set pieces were thwarted away near the goal, either by the Elizabeth back line or between keepers Stephen and Dylan Valencia (Dylan came on briefly in the second half while Stephen exited temporarily due to injury).
“You’ve gotta be lucky sometimes, and I don’t think we’re too lucky — today or during the season,” Breznitsky said. “We can’t say we didn’t have our opportunities, but the boys did a good job.”
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