It was contentious, it was fast-paced and it was loud.
My, was it loud.
Soccer is alive in Buffalo, as 3,821 supporters at Robert E. Rich All-High Stadium attested Wednesday evening in the first Lord Bedlington Cup battle between FC Buffalo and Bedlington Terriers FC of England’s Northern League.
Opening ceremonies featured brilliant versions of “O Canada,” “The Star-Spangled Banner” and “God Save The Queen” from opera singer Jena Abati and a welcome from local soccer and civic luminaries like former Buffalo Stallions GK Jim May, WNY Flash owner Joe Sahlen and players Alex Sahlen and Gemma Davison, Rochester Rhinos VP Dave Cieslinski, Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown, Erie County Executive Chris Collins, BPS superintendent Dr. James Williams, English deputy consul Dominic Meiklejohn, Canadian consul Marta Moszczenska and, of course, Bob and Mindy Rich.
Once the game began, it was all business from two sides that clearly wanted to lift the Cup. FC Buffalo’s Mike Reidy opened the scoring after a long throw from defender Jake Rinow led to a BTFC mishap in the box. It was 1-0 in the 14th minute, one of many goals on the night.
Nearing halftime the preseasoning Terriers seemed to be finding their stride despite a short bench, cross-Atlantic travel and matches on consecutive nights, but FCB defender Corey Phillips latched onto an Andy Tiedt feed and slotted home right before the break to make it 2-0, Blitzers.
As the second half began, Mike Unwin continued his impressive move from forward to right midfielder with a beautiful through ball for Cory Cwiklinski. The Medaille man made a deft move on the keeper and finished to open up a 3-0 lead.
A very physical team, BTFC’s aggressiveness cost them moments later when captain Stuart Elliott was shown his second yellow card for dangerous tackling. As Buffalo.com’s Ben Tsujimoto wrote, it was then that the floodgates opened: Stephen Baker (Penn) and Chris Walter (Nichols) scored neat goals before former Reading/Cardiff City man Paul Brayson dirtied Buffalo’s clean sheet with a fantastic free kick goal.
The final read 5-1 and captain Andrew Larracuente collected the Lord Bedlington Cup from Bob Rich. Also on hand to witness the event were former Sabres forwards Danny Gare and Derek Smith, Buffalo Police spokesman Mike DeGeorge and waterfront execs Larry Quinn and Jordan Levy.
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