SACRAMENTO, Calif. – Villyan Bijev scored a pair of goals as Sacramento Republic FC rallied to a 3-2 victory against Real Monarchs SLC in a preseason exhibition on Saturday night at Papa Murphy’s Park.
The Monarchs took the lead in the 27th minute when Trinidad & Tobago international Alvin Jones powered home a right-footed free kick with the outside of his boot from 35 yards that dipped into the bottom-right corner of the net, leaving Sacramento goalkeeper Adam Grinwis helpless.
Three minutes later, Real doubled its lead as 17-year-old Chris Garcia played a good one-two with Milan Iloski on the left side and then angled his finish past the advancing Grinwis into the right corner of the net.
Republic FC responded quickly in the second half as substitute Kharton Belmar scored inside the opening minute of kickoff. Bijev whipped in a dangerous cross from the left that found Belmar directly in front of net for a simple finish.
The hosts leveled with 17 minutes to go when its own youngster, Mario Penegos, delivered a stellar ball through the heart of the visiting defense directly to Bijev on the left. The Bulgarian-born playmaker cut inside onto his right foot and curled a shot from the top-left edge of the penalty area into the top-right corner of the net to level.
Bijev then struck again with four minutes to go to cap an excellent night. A free kick from the right by Juan Barahona was curled to the center of the penalty area, and a deflection forced Monarchs goalkeeper David Ochoa into a diving save. Bijev was in the right place at the right time to put home the rebound, however, lifting SRFC to a hard-fought victory.
“I thought you saw two different teams in the first and second half, and it’s a credit to them that we got a reaction,” Republic FC Head Coach Mark Briggs said. “I think in the second half, that showed the team that we are and the team we are going to be. It was pleasing to see there was a reaction at halftime.”