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AFC Cleveland wins Presidential Cup in hard-fought battle

“The Battle for Ohio” took place Friday night between AFC Cleveland and Zanesville Athletic FC at Krenzler Field on the Cleveland State University campus. The coveted Presidential Cup, the first piece of hardware awarded in the 2013 NPSL season, went to AFC Cleveland in a 3-2 win and a 6-4 score on aggregate.

The Royals came into the match leading the Presidential Cup standings thanks to a 3-2 AFC Cleveland victory against Zanesville on May 19th.

A great crowd was on hand for a rollercoaster match where the final result was up in the air until the final whistle.

“It doesn’t matter how we’re playing,” AFC Cleveland head coach Andy Hoggarth stated. “The fans are going to stay behind us. They trust us that we are doing everything we can to win.”

The first half was one of opportunities for both sides even though Cleveland held an advantage in possession. It took a full 45 minutes for former Akron striker Tommy Schmitt to score off a looping free kick to put Cleveland up 1-0.

Christian Earnest made it 2-0 in favor of the home team in the 51st off an assist from Schmitt.

Zanesville responded with a goal of their own eight minutes later thanks to a strike from Smart Osadolor, who caught Royals keeper Ben Yabrow off his line and was able to sneak one past to keep the visitors in the match at 2-1.

Zanesville’s Anthony Bahadur brought things even at 2-2 in the 82nd minute.

But it was Mount Union forward Tommy Beck, with an assist from Tyler Johnston, who scored seven minutes later to put the Royals ahead for good. It was an important goal that brought his team a much needed three points and a piece of hardware for the AFC trophy case.

Zanesville did not go down easy as they continued to fight in the final minutes. A red card was shown to ZAFC’s Tim Findall in stoppage time, which put the visitors down to 10 men for the final minutes of the match. To their credit Zanesville continued to attack until the final whistle was blown.

“It was definitely a good result,” AFC Cleveland defender Phil Spagnolo commented. “Ben [Yabrow] did great. In stoppage time he saved a wide open 1 on 1 goal. He had great hands all night, great positioning, good distribution. He did well.”

Neither team has much time to rest as they have yet another match on Sunday. AFC Cleveland hits the road to face FC Buffalo, while Zanesville heads home to take on FC Sparta Michigan.

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