WESTLAKE — Flashing textbook foot skills, Westlake’s Omar Salem worked his way through the North Olmsted defense Wednesday night to score a key goal.
When he connected in the 55th minute, it became the winner in the Demons’ 4-2 Division I district semifinal win over Southwestern Conference rival North Olmsted. The match unfolded in a cold weather array that included sunshine, rain, sleet and snow.
Westlake (9-5-4) advances to the district final against Avon Lake, another longtime SWC rival, at 7 p.m. Saturday. The site will be announced.
Unfortunately, from a North Olmsted point of view, Westlake’s fourth score came on an Eagles’ own goal in the 58th minute. Max Becker, the Eagles sophomore midfielder, created the final score in the 78th minute with his second goal of the night.
If not for the own goal and an offside call that nullified an apparent Eagles goal in the 73rd minute, the match could have been a 3-all tie at the end of regulation. It wasn’t in the cards.
“You can’t play a first half like we did and put yourself behind the 8-ball and expect to win,” said Eagles coach Chris Marsh, whose team finished the season 8-6-4. “We were lucky we were still in the game. We kept trying to make the killer pass and we were 70 yards away from the goal.
“You can’t try to make the killer pass when you’re just getting out of the defensive third of the field. Unfortunately, their third goal killed us. What a great goal set up by Omar. He beat four of our guys down there and that’s why he’s the MVP of our league.”
With a spectacular 40-yard shot, defender Adam Thompson treated Westlake to a 1-0 lead in the 13th minute. The Eagles’ Becker, corralling the rebound after a shot by senior Stefan Spanu, tied it with his first goal in the 30th minute. Westlake led 2-1 at halftime after sophomore Jason Rebholz’s breakaway goal in the 37th minute.
Salem’s eventual clincher came 15 minutes into the second half and Westlake got the insurance point on the Eagles’ own goal three minutes later. Becker’s second score came less than two minutes from the end.
“We knew they were going to come with a strong second half and I told the boys just to possess the ball, take our time,” Westlake coach Mike Besu said. “If we score the next goal (Salem did, 15 minutes into the second half) the game is going to be over. It was huge.
“We had some opportunities in the first half when we were up 1-0 and it could have been 2- or 3-0. But my hat’s off to them. They came to play and they were prepared.”
Contact Bob Daniels at 329-7135 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Westlake 4, North Olmsted 2
GOALS: (NO) Max Becker 2 (30th, 78th minutes); (W) Adam Thompson (13th), Jason Rebholz (37th), Omar Salem (55th), North Olmsted own goal (58th).
ASSISTS: (NO) Stefan Spanu .
SAVES: (NO) Alexander Gajowski 7, Harry Kamenos 0; (W) Nathan Greenberg 3.
SHOTS: North Olmsted 5; Westlake 13.
SHOTS ON GOAL: North Olmsted 3; Westlake 9.
CORNER KICKS: North Olmsted 1; Westlake 4.
GOAL KICKS: North Olmsted 9; Westlake 2.
OFFSIDE: North Olmsted 1.
HANDBALLS: North Olmsted 1.
FOULS: North Olmsted 13; Westlake 9.
CARDS: (W) Dakota Swisher, yellow (72nd minute).
HALF: Westlake 2-1.