LOWELL – The no. 4 seed Lowell Red Raiders came back from one of their worst halves of soccer of the season to put on a clinic in the second half and defeat the no. 13 Westford Academy Grey Ghosts, 2-0, in an MIAA Division 1 North first round game Thursday night at Cawley Stadium.
Meyele Malango scored both goals for the Red Raiders, one in the 70th minute and the other in the 80th minute. Both came on runs up the middle after the Red Raider offense tried attacking from the wings for much of the game.
“We tried to stretch the game out a little bit,” Lowell head coach Bill Bettencourt said. “It didn’t work well in the first half, but in the second half it worked well.”
Malango wasn’t the only Red Raider with a big game. Goalie Ian Ford Hunt made three saves, none bigger than his last one at the end of the second half. With time winding down and the Red Raiders clinging to a 1-0 lead, Hunt came off his goal line and leapt to snag a shot from 20 yards out by Westford’s Joe Harkness. The ensuing counterattack led to to Malango’s second goal, sealing the victory for Lowell (15-2-4).
“Ian had a great game, particularly in the second half,” Bettencourt said. “He made some saves that would have turned a 1-0 game into a 1-1 game. Who knows what would have happened from there.”
Westford dominated the first 10 minutes of play, getting two corner kicks and four shots, but Hunt and Lowell defense kept them out of the net. The Red Raiders had their chances as well, but five fouls and too many easy giveaways in the offensive end left them off the scoreboard. They also committed five fouls to Westford’s one and were outshot 7-6.
“We didn’t have a very good start to the game, but at halftime we made some corrections and we came out playing well,” Bettencourt said.
Two Red Raiders left the game with injuries – Baker Sonoga had his foot wrapped and iced and leading scorer Kyle Alves was on crutches after the game. If they end up missing any time, it will make Sunday’s quarterfinal against no. 12 St. John’s Prep only that much tougher.
“It’s going to be tremendous impact,” Bettencourt said. “He’s going to be terribly missed. Hopefully it’s nothing serious.”
Westford finished the season at 8-7-4.