Lubunga (2 goals), resurgent defense lift Central into D-I semifinals, 3-0

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s111MANCHESTER, NH — Senior Captain Martin Lubunga scored in each half, leading No. 4 Central past No. 12 Exeter, 3-0, in a Division 1 State Quarterfinal match, Friday afternoon at Gill Stadium.

The win lifts the Little Green into a semifinal showdown vs. top-seeded Hanover (15-2-0), Monday at 6:15 p.m. at Stellos Stadium in Nashua. The teams met earlier this month, with Central handing Hanover its only home loss of the season, 2-0. But CHS Head Coach Maid Ahmic knows none of that matters with a berth in the State Final on the line.

“We’re going to have bring our A-plus game,” said Ahmic. “They’re the best team that we’ve played this year. They’re unbelievably good. They’re the favorites to win the title and we’ve got to be perfect.”

Central (14-4-0) was nearly perfect against upstart Exeter (8-9-1), which was coming off a 3-2 upset of No. 5 Londonderry. The Little Green made sure they didn’t suffer a similar fate, controlling the midfield throughout and dictating the tempo.

After a sluggish start, during which its timing seemed off in the attack zone, Central began to assert itself, led by the play of Lubunga and Celestin Belose. After multiple near misses, Central broke on top in the 27th minute, when Lumbunga too a pass just over 20 yards from the net, turned a rifled a shot under the crossbar and just past the outstretched hands of Exeter keeper Brady Rogers (7 saves).

It stayed 1-0 through halftime, as Exeter was unable to generate any quality scoring chances on Central keeper Samuel O’Toole (5 saves). Central’s defense has shown vast improvement during the course of the season and is playing its best soccer at just the right time. After surrendering 13 goals in a six-game stretch mid-season, the Little Green has given up just one goal in its last seven games. O’Toole, himself, hasn’t given up a goal since a 2-0 loss to Pinkerton on Oct. 3.

“Those guys (on defense), they hear all the stuff people are saying about them and they stepped up,” said Ahmic. “I thought (Dylan Drunsic) for Exeter is a fantastic player and I think Angelo (Ngemonza) and Samuel did a great job keeping him in check. The defense has just been working at it all year and has kept getting better.”

In the second half, as Exeter was beginning to tire, Central got an infusion of energy from its bench and the Blue Hawks had no answer. Junior Jean Amisi Aya Wa Mawenda scored in the 61st minute to put the Little Green up, 2-0. But the goal was set up by a spectacular individual effort from sophomore Thiago Silva, who made a nice run down the right wing, used some nifty footwork to shake a defender a lofted a left-footed crossing pass to the front of the net that Mawenda was able to control and knock home.

Ahmic said Mawenda and Silva provided exactly the spark he was hoping for.

“Amisi came on and he gave us a lot of energy. I thought we were a little slow and very sloppy and then Amisi came on and he made some runs and I kept telling them, you just gotta keep making those runs and it will happen,” said Ahmic. “And then we got one (from Silva)  and back post Amisi was able to just tap it in.”

A short time later Lumunga sealed the win with a rocket into the top corner of the net from 35 yards out to make it 3-0.

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About this Author

Bill Gilman

Bill Gilman is a veteran journalist with 35 years of experience covering community news and sports in New England. He and his wife have two grown sons and two perfect granddaughters.

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