WATERBURY — The chants of, “Let’s go, Wilby,” sounded a little strange at a boys soccer game, but this is not the Wilby team of the past. This year’s Wildcats came into Monday night’s game at Municipal Stadium against Naugatuck sporting an undefeated 6-0 record.
But the Greyhounds, who have been red-hot since a 1-2 start, brought Wilby back down to earth. The game was tied, 3-3, early in the second half until Nolan Kinne scored the go-ahead goal on a penalty kick inside the box. Wilby never threatened again as Naugatuck closed out the 7-3 win to take over sole possession of first place in the Naugatuck Valley League Copper Division.
“This game wasn’t as close as the final score would indicate,” Naugatuck head coach Art Nunes said. “We knew coming in here that Wilby had a lot of speed up front and we needed to neutralize that. They are a very good team but we felt if we could mark up their forwards we could slow them down a bit.”
Both teams went hard after the ball throughout the game and that opened up an opportunity for the ‘Hounds (4-2-1). With 26:44 to play, Joe Martins received a pass in the box and was taken down from behind.
That led to a penalty kick and Nolan Kinne (two goals) placed it in the upper-right corner just under the crossbar for a 4-3 Naugatuck advantage.
The Wildcats (6-1) never threatened again.
Naugatuck closed the deal with Martins, Adam Branco (two goals, three assists) and Ygor Silva adding goals down the stretch for the 7-3 final margin.
“Once we scored that go-ahead goal it seemed to take a little out of them and we were able to close out the game,” Nunes said.
The go-ahead penalty kick came just five minutes after Wilby tied the game for the second time. With 31:29 left, Bledi Etemi drilled a shot on which Naugatuck goalkeeper Anthony Pohorilak made a great save. But he failed to secure the ball, allowing Mateo Cano to gather the rebound and knot the game at 3-3.
The first half was a back-and-forth affair. The Greyhounds scored first after Branco took a crossing pass from Silva and drove through the middle to put one into the net just five minutes into the game.
Naugy’s lead was short-lived as Wilby responded in the eighth minute when Francesk Qyteti cleaned up a free kick that clanged off the post to tie the game at 1-1.
The frantic pace of the first half looked more like a track meet as both team raced at breakneck speed up and down the sidelines going after each other at every turn.
With 27:27 to play in the first, the Wildcats took their only lead of the game when Etemi received a pass from Qyteti and beat Pohorilak to the far post for a 2-1 Wilby lead.
On the next possession, the ‘Hounds charged down the field with Jason Goja finding a lane off a pass from Branco. Goja raced in on Wilby goalkeeper Todd Coelho and the shot got by a Wilby defender who somersaulted into the net along with the ball that tied the game at 2-2.
With 9:42 left in the half, Kinne put a header on a corner from Branco at the left post to put Naugatuck ahead, 3-2.
Naugatuck held a distinctive, 11-4 advantage in shots on goal at the break but Coelho made seven saves and Pohorilak made two.
“We have been working on changing things up and moving some players around to spark our offense,” said Nunes. “It has started to come together for us, but going into the break we knew Wilby was very much in this game.”
After hosting Seymour on Wednesday night, the ‘Hounds travel to Woodland on Friday afternoon for another meeting with an unbeaten team. Naugy will then host three home games in a row next week.