Servet Uzunlar preserved the Pali Blue’s perfect record, netting a goal in the last seconds of stoppage time to defeat the Santa Clarita Blue Heat 1-0 at Palisades High School on Saturday.
Uzunlar’s goal went unassisted on the stat sheet, but teammate Liz Bogus had everything to do with creating the opportunity. Bogus followed up her shot after it was knocked down by Blue Heat goalkeeper Cynthia Jacobo and played it back in the penalty area where Uzunlar ran onto it and placed it in the upper right corner.
“It was the last minute and I saw the ball bouncing, and I thought I would just charge in on it,” Uzunlar said. “Lucky enough, it bounced my way and I just whacked it and it was on target. “
Santa Clarita’s head coach Charles Martinez thought the goal came after stoppage time should have ended.
“I think the referee added too much injury time,” Martinez said. “The goal came after 94 minutes and the referee said he was adding three minutes of injury time. So when I asked him why he was doing that he gave a minute more. I think we really deserved a tie.”
Pali head coach Charlie Naimo saw it differently, however.
“Bottom line – whether the goal came a minute late or whatever – we deserved to win,” Naimo said. “Nobody can watch that game and say the Pali Blues didn’t deserve to win the game.”
Pali definitely created plenty of opportunities to score, taking 16 shots in the game, while Blue Heat took seven. Uzunlar led all players with six shots.
“I thought we controlled the game more, in patches, than they did,” Uzunlar said. “I just think we should have finished some early chances and that would have taken the pressure off. We didn’t and it turned into a battle.”
Pali had chances early, starting with a bicycle kick from Ann Marie Tangorra that hit the crossbar in the fifth minute. Bogus had a shot deflected over the crossbar by Blue Heat’s Jacobo and Sarah Huffman’s shot was also denied by the goalie.
Jacobo was brilliant in goal with seven saves in the match and definitely affected Pali’s ability to finish their chances.
“It’s amazing to have a goalkeeper like that,” Martinez said. “She gives you a strong security in the back and gives a lot of confidence to the whole team. She was a key player.”
For the Blue Heat, their star forward Edite Fernandes took just one shot in the game. Dinora Garza led the offense with three shots.
“Our midfielders and forwards were not connecting, the lines were too far apart,” Fernandes said. “But, it’s okay; we defended good and tried to be our best. Our defense was solid.”
Martinez said the Blue Heat’s game plan was focused more on staying solid in the middle and defensively.
“We realized that this team is kind of quick with the ball and they try to push it in the attack with a lot of people,” Martinez said. “So what we did was try to play organized in the middle a little more in order to come up and counter attack.”
Naimo credited his team with sticking to their game plan, as well.
“I honestly think we put together a plan and to the credit of the girls, they stuck to it,” Naimo said. “We knew exactly where we couldn’t let them play on the field and I thought our kids did a great job of pressuring.”
Defensively, Christie Shaner and Whitney Engen came up with solid stops and goalkeeper Anna Maria Picarelli made four saves.
Naimo called this game his team’s “most complete performance.” Pali is now 4-0 and in first place in the Western Conference.
“We did everything right tonight and not getting three points out of that wouldn’t have been fair,” Naimo said. “The soccer gods rewarded us with what I thought was a deserved three points against a very good soccer team.”
The Pali Blues remain at home for a 7 p.m. PT game against Victoria on Wednesday.
The Santa Clarita Blue Heat will play Victoria on Sunday, June 10 at 2 p.m. PT at Valencia High School.
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