READING, Pa. (July 17, 2012) – This match between Reading United and Jersey Express was anything but a repeat of their 2011 playoff match in Reading. That one lasted 90 minutes with 11 combined shots in a 1-0 Jersey victory. This one took 120 minutes, 11 cards, 25 combined fouls and 39 combined shots to decide the outcome, as a shorthanded Reading side needed nearly all of the two hours on the pitch to pull past Jersey 3-1 at Albright College’s Shirk Stadium.
Dante Marini’s 119th minute game winner and ‘keeper Emmanuel Martin came up with several huge saves to preserve a thriller in Reading that sent the United to their fourth USL PDL Eastern Conference Championships in five years.
The United were left shorthanded just nine minutes before, as defender Jonny Raj was sent off after a studs-up attempt at a sliding tackle, his second yellow card of the game. Reading has seemingly played their best soccer this season with only ten players, taking a 2-0 victory on Friday night against Ocean City while playing shorthanded for nearly two-thirds of the match.
It was also the second straight game Reading has won after 90 minutes of play, as the United clinched this home playoff game in the 93rd minute in a 2-1 victory at Central Jersey on Sunday.
Reading took a 1-0 lead just before the half, as midfielder Ian Christianson tracked down a Steven Neumann through ball and poked it past Jersey goalkeeper Rafael Diaz in the 39th minute. The ball just cleared the line, and initially Jersey thought they had gotten to it in time, but it was deemed a goal by the assistant referee along the far sideline.
Jersey keeper Rafael Diaz kept the Express within a goal with a handful of diving stops in a thirteen minute stretch to start the second half. First, he denied Stephen Okai with a dive to his left, then came out to the edge of the box to deny Steven Neumann and pulled out back to back stops on a Jonny Raj header and a David Rodriguez attempt on the doorstep.
Express finally broke through in the 75th minute, as Jersey’s Jake Keegan punched in a loose ball in the box off a corner kick to knot the game at 1-1.
Jersey nearly found the game winner in the 84th minute, as the ball seemed to be moving in slow motion towards the far post off a deflected shot in the box. Emmanuel Martin’s fingertip save to knock the attempt away had the home stands breathing a sigh of relief going into overtime.
Martin followed up one great save with another in the first overtime, coming off his line to challenge Jersey’s Jason Watson in the box in the 105th, and coming away with the tremendous diving stop to preserve the tie.
Marini’s game winner in the second overtime was followed by a PK goal by Stephen Okai in the 120th minute, which sealed 3-1 victory for Reading.
The victory marked the first in four tries against Jersey since a 3-1 victory on the road last season.
Reading’s fate will be announced this week, as they will learn their opponent, location and date/time of the USL PDL Eastern Conference Championship.
Reading United 3, Jersey Express 1
REA: Ian Christianson (Steven Neumann) 39’
IBE: Jake Keegan 75’
REA: Dante Marini (Stephen Okai) 119’
REA: Stephen Okai (PK) 120’
Shots: Reading 20, Jersey 19
Saves: Reading 7, Jersey 9
Fouls: Reading 8, Jersey 17
Offsides: Reading 3, Jersey 3
Corners: Reading 7, Jersey 2
IBE: Joseph Niouky 27’
IBE: Sylvain N’Guessan 57’
IBE: Walter Hines 80’
REA: Jonny Raj 102’
IBE: Shaun Foster 104’
IBE: Jason Watson 107’
REA: Jonny Raj 110’
IBE: Joseph Niouky 119’
REA: Paul Wyatt 120’
REA: Jonny Raj (110’)
IBE: Joseph Niouky (119’)
ABOUT READING UNITED AC
Reading United A.C. (formerly Reading Rage) is the Greater Reading area’s premier minor league soccer team. Led by the ownership group of Berks Professional Sports, Inc. the club was founded in 1995 as the Reading Rage. As the club entered its 15th season a name, logo, and color change was made to better feature the ties to the local and state community as well as the soccer goals of the team and its partners. Reading United is a Player Development Partner of the Philadelphia Union MLS team. For more information about Reading United AC, visit http://www.readingunitedac.com.