DANBURY — The scoreboard may have indicated a 1-1 tie at the end of Saturday afternoon’s game, but for the Immaculate High School boys soccer team, it felt like one of its biggest wins in a long time.
On the other side, that same 1-1 tie was a punch in the gut for a Weston team that appeared well on its way to its 10th victory of the season.
Immaculate’s Ryan Fanella scored the tying goal with 1:12 remaining in a game in which Weston held a 16-7 edge in shots and held a distinct advantage in time of possession. Fanella’s goal — which was assisted by Quinn Guth and set up by a long pass by Tristian DiNatale — not only secured for the Mustangs a tie against one of the top teams in the South-West Conference, it also locked up a spot in the Class S state tournament.
“That was our goal from the start of the season, so I’m just happy for that,” Fanella said with a smile.
The goal came seconds after Immaculate (6-6-1, 5-5-1 SWC) defended a Weston corner kick.
“It all happened so fast, and the next thing I know, Ryan is jumping on us,” Immaculate coach Steven Carneiro said with a laugh. “We tell these guys all the time, talent is one thing, but when you can have 11 guys believing in the system, believing in the team, putting the team first and putting in the hard work, anything is possible. I’m just so proud of these boys.”
For Weston (9-1-1, 9-1-1 SWC), it was a momentary hiccup in what has otherwise been a sensational season.
“I’m very happy with the way the boys played,” Weston coach Kevin Fitzsimmons said. “It’s disappointing to be leading for that long and then to allow a goal, but this is Immaculate, and they’re great on the counter-attack. We didn’t deal with it properly.
“This is probably our first mistake all season, so 10 games in, I can’t fault the boys,” Fitzsimmons continued. “We’ve learned from it, and we won’t make that mistake again.”
After a scoreless first half, Brendan Moore put Weston on the board first in the 46th minute. Bruno Navaresse threaded a pass through to Moore, who slipped a quick, low shot into the net. The Trojans had several opportunities to add to their 1-0 lead as the second half progressed, but they came away empty. Weston goalkeeper Matthew Egan made four saves.
FIGHT TO THE FINISH
The sun was beginning to set behind the trees at Mustang Valley as the final minutes ticked away. With less than 2 minutes remaining, a flicker of hope emerged for Immaculate from the encroaching darkness in the form of a big defensive stop.
The Mustangs stood their ground despite being pinned in their own end for a long stretch. They finally gained possession following a Weston corner kick, and DiNatale suddenly found himself deep in Immaculate territory with the ball at his feet and destiny on his side. He served a long pass up the right wing to a streaking Guth, who gathered the ball, cut inside and challenged two Weston defenders.
Fanella, meanwhile, was sprinting back from in front of his own net to join the play. He arrived in the nick of time, and after accepting a pass from Guth, he fired a low shot inside the far post to tie the dcore.
“I started on our own goal line after we made a stop down there,” Fanella said. “I sprinted over, and I knew Quinn was fast enough to take them on. He gave me a chance, and I just buried it bottom-left.”
Immaculate goalkeeper Connor Mitchell made seven saves, including one spectacular stop on Weston’s Tobey Bill with less than 25 minutes remaining and the Trojans ahead 1-0. Mitchell sprawled to his left to deflect away Bill’s low shot from close range to keep it a one-goal game. Had that shot gone in, Fanella’s goal would have been an afterthought.
WESTON 1, IMMACULATE 1
WESTON 0 1 — 1
IMMACULATE 0 1 — 1
Records: Weston 9-1-1, 9-1-1 SWC; Immaculate: 6-6-1, 5-5-1 SWC. Scoring: 1. W, Brendan Moore (Bruno Navaresse) 46:00; 2. I, Ryan Fanella (Quinn Guth) 79:00. Saves: W—Matthew Egan 4; I—Connor Mitchell 7. Shots: W 16; I 7.