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Comeback Vikings edge Patriots


© St. Petersburg Times, published January 5, 2003

ST. PETERSBURG -- Freddy Navarro had not played goalkeeper in three years. Usually a forward for Pinellas Park, Navarro volunteered to fill in for the vacationing starter, and with 10 saves in the City Championship final against Northeast, he was on his way to being tournament MVP.

But the Vikings (10-0) have a habit of coming back late, and did so Saturday, beating the Patriots 2-1 in stoppage time.

Pinellas Park (4-5-1) led Northeast 1-0 late in the second period and the Vikings were getting anxious watching their shots get blocked and miss their mark for most the game.

"We started getting frustrated in the second half because the shots wouldn't go in," Northeast forward Asmir Pervan said. "They were off target."

Pervan finally got a shot past Navarro in the 76th minute, finding an opening on the right end of the net and tying the game 1-1. Pervan, the tournament MVP, scored again with seconds to play in stoppage time, heading in a corner kick and giving Northeast the win. Pervan said there was nothing easy about his two quick scores.

"Their defense was incredible," he said. "We were having a hard time getting around them. There was always Pinellas Park people everywhere. I beat one and there were two right in front of me. It was always well-stacked in the back."

Despite the loss, Navarro made some great saves, pinning one shot to the goalpost. The Patriots defenders helped out too, blocking several shots in the goal box. They had to deal with 26 shots by the Vikings. "It was bad; a relentless attack," said Patriots defender Nick Donohue, describing the Vikings offense.

Donohue, who left the game for a few minutes in the second when he fell and hyperextended his left arm, thought his team could have held onto the lead if the Patriots hadn't gotten tired.

"When you play against a top-caliber team like this, you can't have mental breakdowns," Donohue said. "That 10-minute lapse (at the end) cost us the game."

Pinellas Park isn't the only team that has lost in this fashion to Northeast this season. The Vikings have come from behind to win six times, outscoring their opponents 26-3 in the second. Nikola Meandzija scored in the 24th minute on a free kick, giving Pinellas Park the early lead. It was the Patriots' second shot on goal.

Eljon Naco, who scored two goals Friday against St. Petersburg, left the game early for the Vikings. He has a hamstring injury coach Tom Blauvelt wanted him to rest.

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