Batista’s amazing goal, Dianes’ heroics lift Kearny past Harrison, 2-1

Energetic crowd at Red Bull Arena treated to exciting match

Photo by Jim Hague/ Kearny’s Abdellah Bouzidi (2) tangles with Harrison’s Jose Neto (11) during the local rivalry showdown Saturday at Red Bull Arena, won by Kearny, 2-1

By Jim Hague

The Harrison boys’ soccer team had just broken a scoreless deadlock with a stellar goal by senior striker Joao Conceicao from about 25 yards out Saturday afternoon. There was pandemonium at Red Bull Arena, because after a tightly played and fiercely contested first half, for all intents and purposes, it looked as if Conceicao’s goal would be enough for the Blue Tide to come away with the victory against neighboring rival Kearny, especially with just 20 minutes remaining in regulation.
However, Kearny’s senior forward Junior Batista didn’t see it that way. While the Blue Tide was celebrating their first goal with their fans, Batista was poised to pounce and finally make his presence felt.
Batista was perhaps the only person in Red Bull Arena who noticed that the Blue Tide, especially goalkeeper Matt Muchowski, wasn’t ready when the referee placed the ball at midfield to resume play after Conceicao’s goal.
“I saw him (Muchowski) facing the crowd, so I figured I would give it a shot,” Batista said.
There was only one problem. The ball was right at midfield, some 60 yards from the goal.
“I took my shot from midfield and I knew I hit it straight,” Batista said. “Maybe I moved it a little over, but it was worth the chance.”
Batista hit a rocket that caught everyone in attendance by complete surprise. Just a matter of seconds after Conceicao’s goal, Batista’s blast made it all the way to the back of the net, one of the more remarkable goals ever recorded in high school soccer.
“I might have seen something like that in the pros and perhaps college,” Kearny head coach Bill Galka said. “I might have seen something similar on television. But never in a high school game with this atmosphere. I was shocked. I think everyone was. We didn’t see it.”

Photo by Jim Hague/ Harrison’s Jason Cunha (6) moves the ball forward, with Kearny’s Abdellah Bouzidi closely guarding, during the Kearny 2-1 win over Harrison at Red Bull Arena last Saturday.

“Not too many people saw it,” Harrison head coach Mike Rusek said. “I was still writing down who had our goal and assist. We had our heads down and made a mistake. It was straight and a 60-yard shot right into the goal. You don’t expect that to happen. It was amazing.”
So Harrison’s celebration with the lead lasted all of two seconds. Batista saw to that. His goal tied the game at 1-1.
“The goal gave us a lot of momentum and gave us hope,” Batista said. “It was awesome. There’s always a first time for everything. When I hit it, I hoped it would go in, but I really didn’t know.”
Batista’s goal certainly turned the tide on the Blue Tide.
About 17 minutes later, the talented striker helped the Kardinals get the game-winning goal.
Batista made a play at midfield, then carried the ball through three Harrison defenders. He then passed it to the left flank, where Abdellah Bouzidi was streaking toward the goal.
On the right flank was the Kardinals’ resident jack-of-all-trades Alejandro Dianes, who has played every position this season for the Kards and was just inserted into the game at forward.
“I thought Bouzidi was going to shoot, so I figured I would go to the goal and maybe get a rebnound,” Dianes said. “I was following the play. He then saw me.”
Bouzidi made a pass across to the streaking Dianes, who somehow managed to knock it home with his outstretched left foot. The ball made it past net minder Muchowski and the Kardinals had the goal that gave them the impetus to earn a 2-1 victory, their first win over Harrison since 2006. The Kards had lost the last two meetings between the backyard rivals.
Incredibly, it was Dianes’ first goal of the season.
“I have so many feelings right now,” Dianes said after the game. “Words can’t describe this. I’m just so out of it right now. Oh, my God, this is the biggest play I’ve ever made. It’s the most amazing goal I’ve ever scored. The coaches picked the right time to put me in.”
Dianes’ amazing goal, set up at first by the guy who scored the most amazing goal, capped what was truly a magical afternoon at Red Bull Arena, the first-ever high school matches played at the local soccer palace.
More than 4,000 avid local fans attended the game (with the Kearny-Harrison girls’ contest as a prelim) and created electricity that is not found in high school soccer matches. Even the two schools’ respective marching bands were wailing away in attendance. There were chants all day, dancing in the stands. It was phenomenal to witness.
“All you do now is think about winning the game and we’re all disappointed,” Rusek said. “But there will be a time we can look back and throw up a smile, thinking about this game and this atmosphere. It was a great crowd.”
“The fans were crazy,” Batista said. “There was nothing like this before. I can’t even describe this. It was truly amazing.”
The two teams played it close to the vest in the first half, but Kearny had the better of the scoring opportunities. Batista had three excellent shots that were stopped on diving saves from Muchowski, In the 32nd minute, there was a mad scramble where Muchowski stopped two shots and again, in the 47th minute, there was another sequence of three shots, two headers and two diving saves by the deft 6-foot-6 Harrison goalkeeper.
And when Conceicao scored in the 61st minute, you could sense that maybe it was the Blue Tide’s day, but literally two seconds later, Batista changed all of that with his goal to remember.
“After they scored, I looked up and saw that we had 20 minutes left,” Galka said. “I figured we were playing well and had a lot of chances. I thought we’d get back into it. I didn’t know we’d get back into it within the next two seconds.”
Galka, whose team improved to 9-2 with the victory, thought it was a fine competitive contest.
“It was a hard game, but a well-played game,” Galka said. “There were three good goals and a lot of excitement. The crowd was really into it. It was a fun game to watch. It was nerve-wracking as a coach, but it was fun to watch.”
And Galka was glad to have the best player on the field on his side. Batista turned the entire game around with one quick thought in the flash of a second.
“He was the difference-maker,” Galka said of Batista, who scored his 17th goal of the season and the most memorable goal ever in the long-standing standing Kearny-Harrison rivalry.
“Kearny played harder than us and got the win,” said Rusek, whose team lost for the first time after 10 straight wins this season. “It was a very exciting game and it was definitely something special. We were celebrating the go-ahead goal and then he (Batista) makes that play to take the wind out of our sails.”
“We all wanted this game,” said Dianes, who never had a chance to beat Harrison before Saturday. “We finally got one.”
And it was one for the memory banks, for sure.

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