Blank celebrates her 88th minute goal with Sjogran (Photo by Howard C. Smith, ISI Photos).
Aluko, Blank Score Goals to Lead Sky Blue FC to Second Consecutive Win
Sky Blue FC (2-3-1, 7 points) picked up its second consecutive win on Saturday night, remaining unbeaten at Yurcak Field by defeating the Boston Breakers (2-5-1, 7 points), 2-1. Midfielder Carolyn Blank scored the game-winner in the 88th minute to give Sky Blue FC its first-ever come from behind win at home, with forward Eniola Aluko tallying the other notch and both assists coming from the feet of Swedish international Therese Sjogran.
After a brief weather delay caused the action to get underway 20 minutes late, a couple of scary moments occurred for the home side in the opening minutes of this match, with English striker Kelly Smith being the culprit on both occasions. In the first minute, she found some space to the left of the Sky Blue FC box and fired a shot that hit the side post. As the ball bounced off the frame, defender Anita Asante was able to clear it from danger for her team. Just minutes later, Smith went on a run through the center of the field towards her attacking third, striking a ball off the top crossbar after being given just enough room for a shot attempt.
A bit of an injury delay happened in the 21st minute when Spanish international Adriana slipped over the ball after and landed awkwardly. Unfortunately, she had to come off the field with the assistance of a stretcher after the play, and preliminary examinations revealed an injury to her elbow. In her place, Aluko entered the match.
The pace of the game was somewhat dictated by the wet surface in the opening half, but both sides were quickly able to adapt to the conditions. Some sure-handed goalkeeping was performed by Jenni Branam of Sky Blue FC and Breakers netminder Alyssa Naeher, along with strong defensive play, and the count remained scoreless when the whistle was blown for intermission.
The deadlock in this game was finally broken in the 50th minute when Smith was fed a ball on the left flank with real estate in front of her. Seeing the situation, she immediately delivered a shot towards the frame, but Branam was there to make a diving save of the attempt. Unfortunately for the home side, Boston midfielder Kelley O’Hara was there for the rebound and quickly struck a hard shot into the back of the net. The tally was the first for the Breakers at Yurcak Field in nearly two years to the day, also giving the road club its first-ever advantage in New Jersey.
The lead would be short-lived for Boston, as Sky Blue FC equalized on a notch in the 58th minute. After halftime substitute Therese Sjogran found a streaking Aluko in the center of the field, the speedy striker raced onto a feed and approached the opposing frame. As soon as space opened for her, Aluko was able to slot a right-footed strike just under a diving Naeher to even the tally at one goal apiece.
In the 67th minute of the game, O’Hara nearly put her squad back on top when she created a 1v1 situation with Branam, but the former Tar Heel aggressively came off her line and made a great save to end the run.
With time running off the clock, Sky Blue FC kept its intensity high, and that effort paid off in the 88th minute. On the left flank, Sjogran had the ball at her feet and quickly turned towards the top of the box where Toms River native Blank was awaiting distribution. Picking up on the opportunity, the Swedish international passed it to Blank, who took one step and sent the ball into the back of the net. With the score, Blank became the seventh different Sky Blue FC player to register a goal this season, giving the hosts a 2-1 edge late in this affair. With just minutes to spare, the home club held on and protected the lead, eventually emerging with its second consecutive victory.
Sky Blue FC will now hit the road once again for a Friday pairing with the first place Western New York Flash (5-0-1, 16 points), and the team will return home on Sunday, June 12th, to host Boston. Tickets for that contest are available now by calling 888-SBFC-TIX.
ResVideo: Head Coach Jim Gabarra
ResVideo: Forward Eniola Aluko
ResVideo: Midfielder Carolyn Blank