MIDDLETOWN - Eager to prove it belongs in the conversation with the top teams in the Shore Conference, the Long Branch boys soccer team set out to make a statement on Thursday at Middletown North.

Senior Venancio Fernandes scored two goals and assisted another by junior Stiviny DaSilva to lead the Green Wave - No. 6 in the Shore Sports Network Top 10 - to a convincing 4-0 win over the previously-unbeaten Lions.

"This is good for us because we needed to show we can beat a high-level team," Long Branch coach Adrian Castro said. "These guys have heard us and other coaches tell them how talented they are but they need to believe it. I think they know, but it helps to see all the work they have put in to get better start to pay off."

Long Branch's Venancio Fernandes celebrates his second goal on Thursday vs. Middletown North. (Photo by Matt Manley)

Senior Renan Azevedo also notched a goal and an assist, scoring on a penalty kick in the ninth minute and finding Fernandes in the 33rd for the first of his two goals.

The Green Wave put the game away with two goals in the second half, the first of which came from DaSilva in the 57th. Fernandes and Azevedo played the ball back to one another on the right side before Fernandes stepped into a long diagonal pass through the air. The ball bounced once to the back right post, where DaSilva camped out and knocked it in.

Fernades then capped the scoring in the 68th by one-timing a cross from Moises Lucas out of the air and inside the near left post.

Long Branch lost 2-1 to Ocean in overtime despite outshooting the Spartans, 18-7, so Thursday's game was important to the Green Wave because it showed the team could win on the scoreboard against tough competition.

Middletown North entered Thursday with a 3-0 record, which included a win over a traditionally strong Westfield side.

Thursday also marked the first time this season in which Long Branch's big three of Fernandes, Azevedo and Juan Carlos Merino were all clicking together. Fernandes's two goals were the first of his season, while Merino forced the penalty kick that Azevedo finished by beating his man and drawing a foul in the penalty box.

"Venancio has played wherever we have needed him, but I want him up top as much as possible," Castro said. "He's so dangerous and he's not even finishing right now. He's had multiple chances every game and once he starts putting them in, with Juan Carlos and Alex (Tabisz) and Renan playing him the ball, we can be pretty dangerous."

 

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