Norwalk settles for a tie
By STEVE GEOGHEGAN
Hour Staff Writer
STAMFORD — It was a game the Norwalk High boys soccer desperately needed and they certainly played with a sense of urgency.
The Bears, battling to keep their playoff hopes alive, trailed 2-1 at half-time and 3-2 with 20 minutes left in their contest against Stamford. With their backs against the wall, they rallied each time yet couldn’t get the deciding goal. In a game featuring numerous fouls and four yellow cards, all in the second half, Norwalk had to settle for a hard-fought 3-3 tie with the Black Knights at Stamford High’s soccer field.
With the tie, the Bears move to 3-3-4 while Stamford is 4-3-3.
“We’re disappointed,” Norwalk coach Chris Laughton said. “Every game we play we think we can win. It’s unfortunate — we came out and were up a goal then sat back and got too comfortable. Before we knew it we were down. One positive you can take away that I’m proud of is the way they came back and fought and they were determined not to get a loss.”
Sean Whitteaker led the Bears with two goals, both off headers, and Andres Torres also found the back of the net. Chris Puente, Mike Lepoutre and Willy Arbieto were credited with assists. For Stamford, Leo Medel, Clifford Lyle and Jefferson Moreno scored. Whitteaker gave his team a 1-0 lead when his perfectly placed header off Puente’s corner kick from the right side of the field landed in the top left corner of the goal past keeper Yeison Llanos ( two saves) 7:50 into the game.
“I thought Sean played a great game,” Laughton said. “We’ve been waiting for someone to be aggressive on set pieces and he stepped up and put two goals in. I’m hoping to see more of that down the line. I’m proud of the way he played today.”
The pace of the game picked up with both teams making runs at the goal. It appeared Norwalk scored another goal at 15:38 when Puente fed Torres but the goal was waved off because of an offsides violation, one of several by the Bears.
Stamford stepped up its pressure and it paid off with its first goal. A free kick by Mike Summa from near midfield found its way to Medel in the middle of the penalty area and he headed the ball over Norwalk keeper Alex Hurd and into the top middle of the goal to tie the score at 1-1 at 19:59.
The Black Knights continued their assault on the Norwalk goal and their persistence paid off with another score. After a failed clearance by the Bears, Dieguo Charles played the ball to Lyle, who rifled a shot from 30 yards out into the bottom left corner of the goal past Hurd for a 2-1 lead at 30:06.
Stamford seemed to be clicking on offense while Norwalk had its struggles going into the second half.
“We played better soccer in the first half,” Stamford coach Mario Caminiti said. “In the second half, we needed to be much more alert and we needed to react to their pressure and we didn’t. That’s been our nemesis, especially coming out in the second half. We made some critical mistakes and obviously it cost us.”
Some chippiness by both teams was prevalent in the second half. The teams were fighting hard for every ball which may have necessitated the constant whistles.
It appeared Torres scored the equalizer at 51:48 but the goal was negated due to an offsides call on the Bears. Despite the setback, Torres kept going to goal and just a minute later, at 52:47, he took a pass from Lepoutre and ripped a shot from the goal area into the bottom right corner of the goal to tie the score at 2-2.
It was identical to the previous goal that was waved off.
“He’s resilient and he never stops,” Laughton said of Torres. “That’s what I love about him. He’s passionate about the game and he’s going to give you everything he’s got every game. I’m glad he didn’t let it deter him and he got back up and kept playing.”
A short time later, Stamford’s Carlos Calix received the first yellow card of the match.
The goal seemed to bolster the Bears but their good feeling didn’t last. Despite Norwalk stepping up defensively in the second half, the Bears let the Black Knights go back ahead 3-2 at 59:50.
With Stamford on the attack, Moreno took a pass from Lyle and he maneuvered to the right side of the field, just outside the penalty area, and he booted the ball from about 20 yards out into the bottom left corner of the goal.
But Norwalk answered just several minutes later. A free kick by Arbieto from outside the penalty area found its way to Whitteaker, who was just outside the box on the right, and he headed the ball into the bottom right corner to tie the score at 3-3 at 63:37. “We knew we had to play good (in the second half) and put goals in the back of the net,” said Whitteaker, who has five goals this season. “We tried to spread the field and play our game, which I think we did, but we just got a little unlucky.”
As for what the team will take from the game, Whitteaker said, “We need to keep our heads in the game all the time and not let the refs get to us.”
Whitteaker and Hurd let the refs get to them late in the game as they were given yellow cards. At 71:21, Whitteaker was sent off and when Hurd came out of the goal to protest a foul call, he received a yellow card at 73: 40. Assistant coach Paul Melitsanopoulos also was booked.
“He’s a quiet kid and to see him come out like that, on one hand I’m disappointed he got a yellow card but on the other hand, it’s good to see that he’s passionate and being more vocal than he has been in the past,” Laughton said of Hurd, who finished with six saves.
The Bears weathered the storm and neither team had a solid scoring chance over the next several minutes. There were several more foul calls, to the dismay of players on both sides, yet the teams failed to capitalize on their free kicks.
Laughton and Caminiti didn’t want to comment on the officiating.
© 2009 The Hour Newspaper