The look on the faces of the Lehman players as they walked off the field at New Dorp HS Tuesday morning was that of astonishment.
The fifth-seeded Lions came in thinking they were the favorite against No. 4 Tottenville in the PSAL Class A boys soccer quarterfinals. But they left the victim of a 1-0 loss.
“We expected to win, definitely,” Lehman senior Sam Aghahowa said. “This is not how we planned it.”
The way the Lions lost was even tougher to take. Tottenville junior fullback Arlind Nika made a run, ran a give-and-go with Cihan Yildiz and found the net past keeper Mendim Gashi in the 78th minute for the match’s lone goal.
“We shut them down for 78 minutes and for them to score a goal with two minutes left, that’s disheartening,” Lions coach Pat Straw said.
Straw said he noticed his team getting tired around the 72nd minute. Lehman (11-1-3) had a less-than-stellar experience getting to Staten Island from The Bronx Tuesday morning.
The players arrived at the school at 6 a.m., but the bus driver didn’t show up until 7:30. The bus didn’t pull into New Dorp until 9:10 a.m., 20 minutes before the scheduled game time. Straw said he requested a time change to 1:30 p.m. to the PSAL beforehand, but was denied.
“We’re usually at games an hour before time,” Straw said. “I’m not using it as an excuse, but it definitely made an impact.”
The Lions looked fine throughout the first half by controlling possession. Tottenville (15-1-1) came on, though, after about 30 minutes and had a handful of chances just before halftime. That momentum carried over into the second half.
Straw was impressed by Tottenville goalkeeper Damien Vuotto. The Pirates also did a fine job defensively on Aghahowa, a speedy, athletic force.
“I was worried about [Aghahowa] the whole game,” Tottenville coach Ron Nathanson said.
The Pirates had been effective on counterattacks all game and that’s how they scored their lone goal. Nika, a defender, saw an open lane and jetted up the field. The Lehman defense had no one to mark him and got burned.
“It was a defensive lapse,” Aghahowa said. “I really don’t know what happened.”
On that play and in the entire game, for that matter.
©2009 Community News Group