By OLIVER SHEEHAN
It took just five minutes for the Palestine boys’ soccer team to open the scoring against Waco in their sectional round boys’ soccer playoff game Friday, but for all their possession, they could not make that early lead stick as the Lions ran out 3-1 winners.
Palestine’s players, try as they may, just could not fashion a clear-cut chance as they repeatedly drove forward into the Waco half, but could not find the way past the defense a second time.
Palestine opened the scoring when the ball was played across from the right and a step-over left it free for Alonso Cruz to put his foot right through the ball and blast into the net to make it 1-0 to the Wildcats.
Then, in the ninth minute, Cruz ran menacingly down the left and played the ball into the center for Wes Ives, but he dragged his shot wide of the right upright.
Waco then took full control.
With 16 minutes gone Jason Diaz leveled matters. There seemed to be nothing on when he picked the ball up 40 yards from goal, but Diaz dribbled skillfully past three defenders and carried on going, before slotting low into the net to tie the game at 1-1.
With 26 minutes gone, Waco almost took the lead when Diaz, standing just 10 yards out, looped a header over Palestine goalkeeper Jose Cabrera. But, the Palestine keeper managed to push the ball onto the crossbar with his fingertips. Hiram Williams then flashed a shot just wide from the angle.
The siege continued on the Palestine goal when Jason Diaz turned inside a defender and shot against the crossbar from 20 yards out.
Seconds later, he went one better when he took the ball outside the defender and took a touch before unleashing an unstoppable right-footed strike that flew like a bullet into the top left-hand corner of the goal to put Waco 2-1 up.
The Wildcats almost equalized a minute before halftime, when a defensive ricochet deflected onto the inside of the Waco post, but the goalkeeper regained his composure to take the ball firmly into his grasp at the second attempt.
The early second half momentum belonged to Waco.
Twelve minutes in, Waco almost made it 3-1 as first a save from Cabrera from point-blank range, and then a defensive block on the line denied them extending their lead.
Jeffrey Reyes then took down a clearance from a corner and lashed a shot just wide of the right post on the half-volley from 25 yards out.
Adrian Rodriguez proved to be the Wildcats’ main creative force and, despite a lovely run and turn passed a defender from deep on the right, his shot was easily saved by the Waco goalkeeper with 23 minutes remaining in the match.
Then, with eight minutes to go, Tim Klauser floated in a free kick that looked to be dipping inside the right post, until the Waco goalkeeper beat the ball out to safety for a Palestine corner.
With five minutes left, Diaz stepped up to claim his hat-trick goal, latching onto a ball over the defense and passing it coolly into the bottom left corner of the goal to put Waco 3-1 up, and finish the game as a contest.
Thursday’s soccer story should have credited Adrian Rodriguez with one of the Wildcats’ two goals in their 2-1 win over Mexia.