WEST HAVEN — Notre Dame soccer coach Rudy Raffone Jr. did not feel safe with a one-goal lead to start the second half against cross-town rival West Haven. Needing three points to qualify for the state tournament, Notre Dame responded.
Just 11 seconds into the second half, Ryan Gannon beat West Haven goalkeeper Dan Prendergast and the Green Knights defeated West Haven 2-1 at Veterans Field on Senior Day Thursday afternoon.
With the victory, Notre Dame improved to 4-6-4 and needs just a tie in either of its final two road contests against Amity and Guilford. West Haven, which already qualified for the postseason, fell to 5-4-4.
“That was a great goal,” Raffone said. “We finally put one in. Give credit to West Haven. They kept on coming.
“We need one point against two good LL teams in Amity and Guilford. We will not play for a tie, but we will take one.”
The second half goal by Gannon was one of beauty as it came off the opening tap. Alexander Ossa sent a perfect lead to Gannon, who tapped the ball across his body past Prendergast to the left corner of the goal.
Notre Dame entered the second half with a 1-0 lead, scoring with 10 minutes, 21 seconds remaining in the opening half. On Notre Dame’s second header attempt of the sequence, Nicholas Fratarcangeli beat Prendergast off an assist from Alexander Mathews.
The Green Knights did a solid job on West Haven star Pablo Perez, limiting his scoring opportunities. Perez was held without a quality shot in the opening half and had his best scoring opportunity of the game sail over the goal on a free kick from 30 yards out with 8:20 gone by in the second half.
“We had no energy at the beginning of the game and got away from our game plan,” West Haven coach Liam Leapley said. “Then we allow a goal nine seconds into the second half. That can’t happen.”
The Westies had eight shots toward the goal in the first part of the second half, with a shot by Blaise Haba turned away by Notre Dame goalkeeper Zack Balabon. The rebound hit the post and the Green Knights held the two-goal advantage.
West Haven put quality pressure on in the final 22 minutes. Selim Turkmen was denied by Balabon before Balabon stoned Albert Afful from 10 yards out 55 seconds later.
The Westies finally capitalized with 19:03 remaining when Kevin Ruiz sent a perfect cross to Haba, who ripped a laser by Balabon to the top corner, cutting the deficit to 2-1.
“We played better in the second half,” Leapley said. “Blaise Haba played a pretty good game. Mike Smith played a really good game. We did not play well at the start.”
The Westies’ domination of the latter part of the second half continued when Perez was awarded a free kick from 32 yards out. The curling shot from Perez looked headed to the top right corner but Balabon punched the shot away.
Perez had another golden opportunity to knot the game with a free kick with less than 8 minutes to go. But, his shot from 22 yards out sailed wide of the goal.
“I am not happy they scored that goal,” Raffone said. “We talked about taking away the diagonal pass and they score on a diagonal pass. That can’t happen.”
The Green Knights controlled play in the first half and had better quality scoring opportunities, but Prendergast was up to the challenge. After Fratarcangeli headed a shot wide from 10 yards out with 17 minutes left in the opening half, Prendergast punched away a free kick by Ossa 3 minutes later.
Prendergast and Balabon each made six saves in the game.