PORTLAND >> From the opening kick, the Cromwell boys’ soccer team spent the afternoon in the Portland zone.
The Panthers attacked early and often as they defeated the Highlanders, 4-0, at Portland.
Crowmell’s Ardit Statovci made a move through the left side of the box, past his defender and got the scoring started by drilling a shot into the far corner of the net just two minutes and 34 seconds into the game.
Portland (1-3) didn’t get a legitimate scoring chance until midway through the first half when Abner Velasco sailed a free kick over top of the net.
With 5:39 left in the first half, Derek Parker settled the ball about 20 yards out, lined up and blasted one right past Highlanders keeper Cole Ogorzalek for a 2-0 lead.
Cromwell (3-1) has focused all season on keeping the ball out of their backfield and that’s just what they did.
“We got some chances to score and we scored in the first half, but I thought our attacks were better in the second half,” said Cromwell coach Jon Harder.
Dylan Davis unleashed a shot from just shy of midfield, just above the crossbar, over the outstretched arms of Ogorzalek as the first half came to an end.
Portland coach James Stotler was disappointed with the way his team played, especially in the first half.
“You can’t get down to a team like Cromwell, they have a lot of weapons,” said Stotler.
The second half was no different as the Panthers came out firing. Two minutes and 30 seconds in came an on target shot from Thomas Mantel and then 47 seconds later a shot just wide by Statovci, who would bury his second goal of the game three minutes later. Statovci maneuvered through the defenders to the left side before shooting across his body to the back corner of the net.
“I thought our attacks were better in the second half,” said Harder. “We didn’t play direct, we came back to the ball, we pulled apart their defense a little better and created more scoring opportunities and put two more in.”
The final Cromwell goal came with 1:43 left in the game when senior Kwabe Asante received the ball on the left side, dribbled through three defenders until he was right in front of Ogorzalek (10 saves) before pushing the ball past the Portland keeper.
Portland had one more opportunity a minute later to deny the shutout but Velasco took a shot that flew wide right.
“The focus from the beginning of the season for us has been defense, keeping the ball out of the net, so mission accomplished there,” said Harder.