By Dan Harrison
---- — BEVERLY- The undefeated Danvers boys soccer team had its first Northeastern Conference game against a North opponent yesterday when the Falcons traveled to play Beverly. When Danvers’ Eric Martin, the NEC leading scorer, couldn’t convert on a penalty kick in a tie game in the second half, the Panthers had a window of opportunity.
The Falcons, meanwhile, had Mike Powers. Minutes after Beverly keeper Justin Carnivale came up with a massive stop on a Martin penalty kick, Powers capitalized on a Danvers corner as the Falcons scored two more goals to claim a 4-1 victory over Beverly.
Caio Silva booted the corner kick into the Beverly (4-3-2) box where the ball was played up by Martin and eventually scored by Powers for the juniors' first career varsity goal to break a 1-1 tie. From there, Beverly was forced to take more risks offensively and the Falcons (6-0) were able to capitalize as Martin scored a pair of goals before the final whistle.
“That’s a big goal from the smallest guy on the field,” Danvers head coach Mike Chase said about Powers' goal. “It forced them (Beverly) to change the way they were playing and allowed us to open up the offense. We don’t capitalize on a couple of those and we’re in trouble. That’s a great soccer team and it was a physical battle all game. I can’t say enough good things about them (Beverly).”
Nikolay Sakhin was able to hammer home a rebound off a Martin shot after the senior tri-captain made an outstanding run down the right side before firing a low hard shot, which Carnivale simply couldn’t control. But not long into the second half Beverly evened things up when the Panthers' leading scorer Conor Leahy banged home a rebound of his own, this coming after a Nate McLaughlin shot was stopped by Falcon keeper Drew Larsen.
“The score doesn’t indicate the game that it was. I felt we were in it even when they scored the second goal, I didnt think we were out of it,” Beverly head coach Kevin Leahy explained. “We started pushing though, we changed our formations to see if we could generate more offense and you know you take that chance and it backfired on us.”
Martin would score twice before the end of the game. First, he scored on a spectacular individual effort where he stayed with the ball on a breakaway, deflecting it back into the net when Carnivale slid out to meet him. Then, Martin headed a bouncing ball inside the Beverly box that appeared to catch Carnivale off guard.
But the real story for Danvers was its defense and the lack of quality opportunities Beverly had despite an outstanding game from Leahy.
Sweeper Matt Kidney cleared nearly every Panther corner attempt and had a big defensive play in the first half when he was able to disrupt what appeared to be a dangerous breakaway for Josh Cronin. Nick Lebel and Zach Noring were strong as well in front of Larsen.
“I think our defense really stepped up, especially in the second half,” Chase noted. “We played well enough all game defensively to get the win. The biggest thing for us was that they did pressure us through air on corners but we did what we needed to do to win, which is focusing on defense.”