SOCCER: Mustangs shake off Balers, 2-1

San Benito's Andres Corona competes for a header with Gilroy's

Both the Gilroy High and San Benito boys soccer teams entered Wednesday’s must-win match with the feeling that there was more to be done after a 1-1 draw in the teams’ first encounter left each unsatisfied and with business unfinished.

Playoff implications were at stake, and the Mustangs and Balers played like it. But sometimes it hurts to be a man down.

Moments after San Benito was limited to 10 players because of a red card, Gilroy’s Jonathan Diaz De Leon scored in the 65th minute of the rivalry duel to lift the Mustangs to a 2-1 victory.

“It helped them a lot but we are a no excuse team,” San Benito head coach Tony Deras said. “If we make a mistake on the pitch, we lose games together. We win games together and we lose games together. I think it’s naive mistakes that cost us that last goal.”

The loss sends the Balers 3-5-1 and into fifth place in the Tri-County Athletic League – all but eliminated from postseason play. Meanwhile, with Diaz De Leon’s goal, the Mustangs, now 4-4-1 in league play, are still within striking distance of second place in the TCAL.

San Benito Andres Corona started the scoring in the 15th minute. Corona shot a perfectly arced ball that sailed over the Gilroy keeper’s head.

“It was a good shot, that Hollister goal, but we were able to come back and play strong,” Diaz De Leon said. “ We are rivals and we wanted to play well but sometimes we need a goal to get us going. After (San Benito’s goal) we started connecting on our passes and our through balls to combine together as a team.”

It didn’t take long for Gilroy to answer. The Mustangs quickly went on the offensive attack, but did not cash in on a few prime chances in the ensuing 10 minutes after the Baler tally.

The Mustangs’ best chance came after a San Benito foul inside the keeper’s box in the 25th minute. San Benito’s Manuel Garcia, who dove to the ground and deflected the ball wide left, stifled Diaz De Leon’s penalty kick attempt to keep San Benito up 1-0.

The lead didn’t last for long, though, as Gilroy continued to put pressure on the Baler defense. Eventually on a broken play, after a shot by Gilroy’s Efren Pineda, the Mustangs evened the score. Pineda rushed down the left side and fired a shot to the goal. San Benito’s Garcia dove and deflected the ball into a sea of San Benito defender and Gilroy freshman Andres Jimenez. After a couple of touches, Jimenez pounded the ball through the Baler defenders to even the score.

“The game was intense,” Gilroy head coach Armando Padilla said. “We played at their place 1-1, and here it’s a bigger field and better surface and it played into our advantage. The few times when we were able to control possession, we got some great chances out of it.”

The game remained tied until the 65th minute, but it wasn’t because of a lack of opportunities.

Gilroy dominated possession of the ball, but failed to build a consistent offensive push. Conversely, San Benito was unable to gain an offensive threat and struggled to find room on Gilroy’s side of midfield.

Momentum finally tilted to the Mustangs, though, in the 60th minute. Trying to make an offensive play, San Benito’s Brian Arevalo tripped a Gilroy defender and was given a red card.

And a little more than five minutes later, Gilroy took advantage with the game-deciding goal.

San Benito hosts Palma at 3:30 p.m. Friday in the Balers final home game of the year.

Gilroy next travels to Alvarez at 5:15 p.m. on Friday. The Mustangs need to win the rest of the season’s game to catch second-place Salinas.

“We had a team meeting on Monday and talked about the things we needed to do to turn this team around,” Padilla said. “It’s going to take one game at a time. We can’t look ahead to any teams. These aren’t gimmie games. You can’t go out there and expect to win. Every team needs to win to have a chance to get second place.”

He continued, “Everyone believes they have a chance that they can catch Salinas and end up in second place because that’s our belief.”

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