Wild finish ends with offsides call

SOCCER I WILMINGTON 4, RIVERHOUNDS 3

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Joseph Ngwenya thought it was good. Justin Evans thought it was good. The Highmark Stadium crowd definitely thought it was good.

But the one person whose opinion mattered -- assistant referee Amanda Ross -- thought Ngwenya was just a hair in front of Wilmington's last defender.

Ngwenya's apparent equalizing header in stoppage time was wiped off because Ross ruled him offsides, and the Riverhounds had to settle for a 4-3 loss to the Hammerheads Saturday night in their home opener.

"It looked [good], from my angle, but I couldn't tell," Evans said. "She's got the best angle."

That the Riverhounds were so close to tying the score was a minor miracle considering they trailed, 4-2, with just five minutes to go. That's when midfielder Kevin Kerr put home a volley from just outside the 18-yard box to give the Riverhounds a bit of hope.

This capped off a wild second half that saw the Riverhounds pull within one three times, but never tie it.

Riverhounds forward Jose Angulo opened the scoring in the second half on a header off a cross from Matt Dallman to make it 2-1 in the 53rd minute, but Samuel Ochoa extended Wilmington's lead just four minutes later on another header.

Collins John made it a one-goal game again in the 67th minute when he scored just a minute after hitting the crossbar from point-blank range. He could've had a chance to tie it a minute later when he was shoved down in the box, but referee Mathieu Bordeau did not call for a penalty.

Ochoa scored what would end up the winning goal in the 72nd minute on a penalty kick. Riverhounds goalkeeper Gregory Blum guessed correctly when he dived to his right, but couldn't get a hand on the shot.

"When you give up fouls around the box, the other players are good enough to put it in the back of the net," Evans said. "We've got to be a little more steady and not give up cheap fouls around the box."

Evans made a tactical change at halftime to go to a 3-5-2 formation after opening the game in a 4-4-2. Given the Riverhounds' offensive success in the second half, he said it's something he'll consider moving forward.

The Hammerheads led, 2-0, at halftime after an opening 45 minutes in which the Riverhounds had chances to get on the board, but couldn't convert.

Wilmington opened the scoring in the 27th minute when midfielder Steven Miller corralled a pass near the top of the 18-yard box and fired a shot just into the bottom left corner of the net, giving Blum no chance.

The Riverhounds came achingly close to equalizing in the 31st minute when a free kick from Dallman bounced off the crossbar. Angulo found himself with another chance minutes later, but Roberts again pushed away the header to keep the Riverhounds off the board.

"Listen, we went off the crossbar, their keeper made a save from his butt," Evans said. "It's not like we didn't have the chances. We had some good chances, they had some good chances. Their's just went in the back of the net."

The Hammerheads doubled their lead in the 39th minute on a perfectly placed free kick from Daniel Lovitz. From about 20 yards out, Lovitz curled his shot into the upper-right corner of the net and gave Wilmington a 2-0 advantage.

Sam Werner: swerner@post-gazette.com and Twitter @SWernerPG.


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