Greenwich High boys soccer beats Norwalk 4-1 in FCIAC tourney opener

Greenwich High's Mateo Gowland gets the ball past his Norwalk opponent during Friday's FCIAC tournament opener at Cardinal Stadium. — John Ferris Robben

Greenwich High’s Mateo Gowland gets the ball past his Norwalk opponent during Friday’s FCIAC tournament opener at Cardinal Stadium. — John Ferris Robben

Although the Greenwich High School boys soccer team found themselves in an early hole during this evening’s Fairfield County Interscholastic Athletic Conference opening round game against Norwalk High, it was the Cardinals that exploded onto the scene.

Scoring four unanswered goals, including the game-tying goal with less than 10 seconds to play in the first half, Big Red came away with the convincing 4-1 victory at Cardinal Stadium.

“We played really well,” Greenwich High head coach Kurt Putnam said. “The difference between this team compared to some of the team’s I’ve had in the past is that this team has resiliency. Even when Bridgeport Central scored first, we came straight back. Against Staples, we came straight back. Ridgefield we came straight back. That’s what we do. The fact that they’ve known each other for such a long time and have a lot of trust in each other’s abilities really helps.”

Senior Will Gittings finished with a game-high two goals, while fellow seniors Ryan Flipin and Patrick Santini each finished with one goal.

“I’m very confident in this team and what they can do,” senior captain Mateo Gowland said. “The start of the second half, we started to drill balls into the back of the defense and it worked out. We got three pretty quick goals and we got one very nice one at the end. As soon as we scored that first goal, we knew we had to pick up and get into a new gear. Our strategy in the second half was to get the ball into the box to the tall players and get it in the back of the net.”

Of all the goals, it was Flipin’s goal that came at the most crucial time. Throughout most of the first half, Greenwich was attacking the Norwalk defense. However, it was the Bears that grabbed the early 1-0 lead with 9:30 to play in the half.

Not backing down, Big Red kept the pressure and almost had the tying goal with 4:05, as junior Kelian Dequeker hit a free kick that went just over the crossbar.

However, with time running down in the half, Flipin scored the equalizer. Off a free kick, the ball was loose in front of the net. Flipin was able to get a foot on the ball and hit the rebound in the back of the net.

“We started off a little rough, as we were a little undisciplined in the back,” Flipin said. “We were playing strong and on our set pieces we have so many different weapons that the ball popped out and I was able to put it back in. I was in the right place at the right time.”

In the second half, Greenwich made a simple adjustment, as Gittings was moved up forward and the rest of the team was much more disciplined.

The results were immediate. With less than seven minutes gone by in the second half, the Cardinals netted its first lead of the game, as Gowland, on the near side of the field, booted the perfect pass towards net and Gittings redirected the ball with his head and found the back of the net.

The GHS boys soccer team advances to the FCIAC semifinals, which will be played Monday at Fairfield Ludlowe High School — John Ferris Robben photo

The GHS boys soccer team advances to the FCIAC semifinals, which will be played Monday at Fairfield Ludlowe High School — John Ferris Robben photo

With 28:41 left and the ball deep in the Norwalk zone, Santini fired the point-blank shot at net. While it appeared the NHS goalie made the save, the ball still crossed the goal line for the 3-1 lead.

Greenwich got its fourth goal with 3:19 to play. Off a corner kick from Gowland, Gittings was able to get the ball in the back of the net.

“At halftime I made one simple adjustment, and that was to stick Will up front,” Putnam said. “In the first half, we had plenty of possession, but nothing really penetrating. They sit lots of players behind the ball and you don’t have the space to move the ball around. Now, all of a sudden, we are playing balls into the box with two guys there. The goals just started coming.”

Norwalk got its lone goal with 9:30 to play in the first half, as Jon Ceja took a free kick an Sergio Mandujano was in front of GHS senior goalie Santiago Irigoyen and pushed the ball just past the goalie the for the 1-0 lead.

Greenwich finished with 26 shots on net. With the victory, Greenwich will advance to Monday’s FCIAC semifinal game at Fairfield Ludlowe High School.

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