WEST HAVEN — Hamden boys’ soccer coach Joaquin Rodriguez wanted to keep West Haven sniper Pablo Perez from getting any shots in the second half of a tie game. For the most part, Hamden did a good job as Perez had only two quality shots in the final 40 minutes.
Unfortunately for the Green Dragons, one of those shots by Perez proved to be the game-winner as West Haven defeated Hamden 3-1 Wednesday night at Ken Strong Stadium.
Perez took a perfect feed from Kevin Ruiz and drilled a shot past Hamden goalkeeper Matt Wilson to the top shelf with 17 minutes, 58 seconds remaining in the game to give West Haven a 2-1 lead.
“We played smarter in the second half,” West Haven coach Liam Leapley said after his team improved to 3-0-2. “We did not move the ball in the first half. That was our biggest problem.
“Pablo did a nice job. We got him the ball and he took a nice shot. That was big for us.”
The goal by Perez proved to be just what the Westies needed as it stopped early pressure by the Green Dragons in the second half.
Hamden had its opportunities early as Renzo Bermudez could not control a loose ball in front 3 minutes into the second half. West Haven goalkeeper Dan Prendergast denied a free kick by Martin Nunez 4:15 into the second half and Tristan Mahan was stopped from 25 yards out 8 minutes later.
“We did not score in the first 10 minutes of the second half,” Rodriguez said after his team fell to 1-3-2. “That was big. We let them stay in the game. We gave Pablo time to shoot and he put it on net. He did what he was supposed to do.”
West Haven started to take control of the second half with some missed opportunities. Blaise Haba shot wide of an open net from 10 yards out and Perez shot high from in close with 20:30 remaining.
After the goal by Perez gave West Haven a 2-1 lead, both teams had a quality chance. Perez shot a laser which was denied by Wilson from 20 yards out with 10:45 remaining and Nunez saw his corner kick bounce around in front before West Haven cleared with 1:48 remaining.
“We are not that deep of a team,” Rodriguez said. “We did not sub all game. The guys played a full 80 minutes. It’s tough to go up and down the field like that.”
The Westies scored an insurance goal with 1:04 remaining as Haba finally converted when he beat Wilson low to the left side.
“I thought we definitely played better in the second half,” Leapley said. “I am very happy where we are. I feel we could be 5-0. We did not finish in our two ties.”
Each team scored in the first half as the game was even at 1 at the half. Perez set up Jesus Morales for a 1-0 lead before Alejandro Perez evened the game minutes later for Hamden.
Wilson and Prendergast each made eight saves in the contest.