FLORENCE — Teams can dominate possession all they want, but it doesn’t mean a thing if they don’t finish those possessions with a goal.
And that finishing touch was the difference for Athens in a 2-1 victory over Westminster Christian in the championship game of the Florence Soccer Challenge on Saturday night.
The two teams played each other in pool play Friday with the game finishing in a scoreless draw. But Athens (9-0-1) made the most of its possessions Saturday night, scoring a goal in each half.
“Soccer is a game of finishing,” Athens coach Ron Oakley said. “We were able to finish our chances tonight when we weren’t able to last night.”
Athens advanced to Saturday night’s championship game after winning Pool A and then defeating Fort Payne 2-1 in the semifinals Saturday afternoon, while Westminster advanced from pool play as the wild card winner and defeated East Limestone in a penalty kick shootout after drawing 1-1 in the semifinal.
The Golden Eagles didn’t waste much time getting on the scoreboard in the championship match, as Ramon Jurado scored on an assist from Jose Soto eight minutes into the game.
After holding that 1-0 lead into halftime, Athens opened the second half strong, dominating possession and getting a goal when Jurado’s pass through the middle of the defense found Josh Bailey, whose shot found the bottom right corner of the net just three minutes into the second half.
Westminster had few scoring chances throughout the game until late, when Athens subbed out standout central defender Hunter Brown.
“He was exhausted,” Oakley said. “He’s crucial for us on defense and Westminster took advantage of when he wasn’t in the game.”
Westminster got back in the game when Matt Galloway hit the back of the net with a goal 10 minutes from the end.
The Wildcats had a couple more chances to find the tying goal in the final minutes, but shot wide of the net on two occasions, and Athens was able to hang on for the win.
“It’s an honor to win this tournament, because there’s a lot of great teams in this field,” Oakley said. “I’m proud of the guys that they were able to come out here and win games against some really good teams.”
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