By Dylan Butler
When Archbishop Molloy and Holy Cross lock horns on the soccer field, there isn’t much that separates the two teams. On Tuesday at Creedmoor Field, the difference was about three yards.
Three yards proved to be the difference between a free kick outside the area and a penalty kick. And it was Molloy junior Sal Silaco making the most of the small window of opportunity, beating Holy Cross keeper Daniel Cinelli on the penalty kick as the Stanners eked out a 1-0 win in a rematch of last year’s city championship game, won by Holy Cross.
“I felt confident enough to score,” Silaco said. “I knew it was a big opportunity. I felt if I scored it would’ve helped the team and if I missed it would’ve hurt the team. There was a lot of pressure.”
It was Silaco’s first taste of the Molloy-Holy Cross rivalry and it was his first chance to prove to head coach Andy Kostel that he could handle the pressure of a game-altering penalty kick.
“I’ve never seen him take a penalty kick, but he wanted it,” Kostel said. “He was interested.”
The penalty kick was the result of a hard-working run by Molloy junior Gabriel Ortega, who pushed the ball just inside the top right of the box before being taken down by Holy Cross senior Rob Lehman, who got a piece of the ball before tripping up Ortega.
“There was a great through ball by Rob Sardis and I was just fortunate enough to get through and get taken down,” Ortega said.
Silaco quickly made eye contact with Kostel and the coach gave the junior from Middle Village the chance. Silaco calmly stepped to the spot and beat Cinelli low to the keeper’s left to put Molloy (3-2, 2-0 Brooklyn/Queens Diocesan) ahead 1-0 in the 49th minute.
In a game of few scoring chances, Holy Cross (3-1, 2-1) had a couple of opportunities in the second half, but Molloy sophomore keeper Michael Testa was equal to the task. His best save came in the 63rd minute when he lunged to his right to push away a low shot by Paul Nittoli from 18 yards out.
Five minutes later Holy Cross would seemingly have its own penalty shot as Molloy defender T.J. O’Leary appeared to be guilty of a hand ball in the box, but referee Lou Minutoli did not blow the whistle.
“Lou is one of the best referees around, I would take him for any game,” said Holy Cross head coach Paul Gilvary. “If he said it wasn’t a penalty, then it wasn’t a penalty.”
After Holy Cross had the better of play in the first half by winning a number of head balls, Kostel said the difference for the Stanners in the second half was being able to play the ball on the ground.
“We started to take control of the game,” Kostel said. “We had different opportunities to take guys on, get balls into space. We played much better in the second half.”
Reach Associate Sports Editor Dylan Butler by e-mail at TimesLedger@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 143.