Indians survive late Avon push, advance

FARMINGTON — Sabri Akter’s go-ahead goal early in the second half and fantastic defense down the stretch helped the Farmington Indians hang on to a 2-1 victory over bordering rival Avon in a Class L state tournament second round game Thursday night.

Hanging on to a slim lead, Farmington goalie Jeffrey Crook saved big shot after big shot as Avon fired 12 shots in all, many of them in the closing minutes.

Stellar play on a big stage, and perhaps a little help from the soccer gods, gave Farmington the advantage in the emotional and hard fought contest.

“In this tournament there is a little luck,” Farmington head coach Steve Waters said of his team, which fired off 19 shots of their own. “If you don’t have a little luck you’re not winning. We stood tall. When you are up by one in the last 15 min of a game you are under pressure. We’ve been under duress during the season plenty of times.”

From the 27 minute mark and on, Avon seemed to have chance after chance. Falcons sophomore Riley Strassner had four great chances as the second half wound to a close. He shot just wide with 13 minutes left, had a shot saved by Crook at 11:32, and had back-to-back shots on goal at 4:40 and 3:52.

“He worked very hard and got himself into some good spots,” Avon head coach David Zlatin said. “The effort was tremendous from all 11  guys on the field. We created many very good chances at the end of the game.”

Perhaps the best chance came during the game’s climax. A perfect cross found the foot of Avon senior Robert Zaino at point blank range, just him and the keeper, with 30 seconds left. Zaino shot the ball over the net, Avon’s last scoring chance, and seconds later the Indians celebrated.

“We’re not here without him,” Zlatin said of Zaino. “He scored 25 goals and we definitely are not here without him. I know it stings now but we wouldn’t have gotten this far if he wasn’t a part of our squad.”

The first half was a tightly contested battle for possession but was not without its scoring chances.

“Both teams had so much momentum during parts of the game that it was difficult to focus on what your team needs to do next,” Waters said. “There were so many scrambles on the field and I think the team that reshapes the best shapes their way out of those sequences.”

Avon found nylon first, as Sean Janson scored off a great pass from Liam Stensen to put the Falcons up 1-0 with 2:30 remaining in the first half.

But Farmington regrouped, and fast, with Evan Hughes answering just 0ver 100 seconds later off a Matt Stroka assist.

“They scored that first goal with two and a half left and we didn’t get rattled,” Waters said. “We were well composed and our mentality was in compete mode.”

After the half, a 1-1 tie was broken after a terrific cross from Kamil Kolacz was put in the back of the net by Akter. It would prove to be the game-winner.

Even in defeat, Avon showed determination, as proven by their incessant attacks down the game’s final moments. It is a loss that the Falcons can hold their heads high about.

“I was really proud of them tonight, we really took it to them,” Zlatin said. “We were worried about how we would react to a couple setbacks tonight, giving up a goal right before half is tough but I thought we started the second half well.”

The Indians will face No. 1 seed Naugatuck on Friday, time to be determined, as they continue their trek for a Class L state title.

Photos and video by Erika Studer

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