Peabody boys soccer nips Billerica

Ramon Falcao dribbles past Billerica's Cameron Salter. (Anne MarieI Tobin)

PEABODY– The Peabody boys soccer team grinded out a non-conference win Saturday afternoon, defeating visiting Billerica 1-0 at cold and blustery Coley Lee Field.
The Tanners dominated the first half, and outshot the Indians 12-3. The second half belonged to Billerica, which held the Tanners to only four shots, but the Tanners made the most of what they had, breaking through in the 54th minute when Johnny Alves took a through ball from Cairo Dalifour, streaked in alone behind the Indians’ defense and drilled it past Billerica keeper Marco Cugno.
“I thought we definitely outplayed them in the first half, but they had a slight edge in the second half,” said Peabody coach Stan McKeen. “I also thought we were tired in the second half, having played the day before. Billerica plays in a very physical league so we knew it would be a tough, physical game, but I’m happy we were able to pick up four points in the last two days and now need just four more to qualify for the tournament. The kids played well.”
In the first half, Peabody controlled the pace of play with the Indians unable to mount much of any offense, spending most of the half in their own half trying to fend off the Tanners.
Peabody had free kicks in the 15th and 22nd minutes. The final four minutes of the half were just an all-out Tanners assault.
With 3:30 left in the half, a Billerica handball gave Peabody a free kick at the 40-yard line. The ball deflected off a Billerica defender over the end line, giving Peabody a corner kick. The corner kick was initially cleared by Billerica, but was played back in by the Tanners, where Kyle Joyce, who was brought up from the junior varsity earlier in the week, made a nice but move to open up a shot. The rebound popped back to Alves, who rifled a shot only to be denied by Cugno, who made a diving one-handed glove save. The rebound dribbled back to Juan Hernandez, all alone with an open net on the left post. But his shot hit the post.
Peabody kept pressing. Alves blasted a shot from point-blank range right at Cugno, who made the save, but the rebound deflected back to Alves, who again was denied by Cugno seconds before the half ended.
The Indians came out of the halftime break energized and kept the Tanner back on their heels for the first 10 minutes before the Tanners picked up the pace.
In the 72nd minute, Joyce won a 50-50 ball just outside the box, but his cross went through a scrum in the box. Dalifour won a 50-50 ball just inside midfield, and threaded a perfect pass to Alves, who turned on the jets and exploded to goal for the game-winner.
The final 20 minutes were full of back-and-forth action, but Cugno and Peabody keeper Will Machado, and their respective defensive units, were up to the task, keeping each other off the board. Over the last two minutes, Peabody dodged a few bullets when Billerica amped up its attack but Machado came up with a couple of solid saves and clears to preserve the Tanners’ 1-0 win.
“They had a few corners, and corners always worry me, but overall I thought Will did a good job back there,” McKeen said. “Kyle Joyce provided a spark up top and I thought defender Will Manning played an extremely good game as did Ramon Falcao at midfield.”
With the win, Peabody improved to 6-3-2. The Tanners visit Marblehead Tuesday afternoon (4).

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