LATHROP — With just two goals scored in the game’s first 60 minutes, Manteca and Lathrop combined for three in a five-minute span in Wednesday’s Valley Oak League contest at Bennie Gatto Field.
The visiting Buffaloes scored the last one when Marcus Montano took a pass from Kevin Rodriguez and buried it in the net for a 3-2 Manteca win.
“That second half was so big for us because I have not seen our guys play with that sort of intensity all season long,” Manteca coach Justin Coenenberg said. “I could see it in their eyes that there was no way they were going to lose that game.
“That was a big win. Despite their record, Lathrop is a good team and last year they gave us trouble here – it is always a close game and we knew we were in for a close game.”
Rodriguez started the second half scoring blitz with an unassisted goal for a 2-1 lead for the Buffaloes (4-1 VOL, 8-2-1 overall).
“On the goal I saw the ball bouncing and I needed to take advantage of it so I put my foot in and got it past the keeper,” Rodriguez said. “When the game was tied 2-2 there was no way we were going to lose. I saw the ball and took a defender and I was going to shoot but I saw Marcus (Montano) open and he had a better look so I got the ball to him and he scored.”
Ramiro Ceja-Flores had a foot in both scores for the Spartans (1-5, 8-9-1), and a very strong foot at that.
With Lathrop trailing 1-0 at halftime, eight minutes into the second half Ceja-Flores launched a free kick 35 yards to Ulysses Almanza who deftly headed the ball in for the tying goal. After Manteca went ahead 2-1, Ceja-Flores again free kicked the ball to Almanza, but this time Almanza found Jose Castellanos for the score to tie the game.
“I was looking at my teammate (Almanza) and immediately we made eye contact and I knew I was getting the ball to him and he was there and got his head on it and got it in the net,” Ceja-Flores said. “It was exactly the same thing on the second one except he passed it to Jose (Castellanos) for the goal.”
With just five combined shots in the first half both teams opened it up in the second half with the Buffaloes taking 10 shots and the Spartans nine.
“They worked hard for the whole 80 minutes that we played,” Lathrop coach Alfredo Reynaga said. “I am very proud of them.
“This was a tough game and is what soccer is all about. It was a tight game and everyone kept fighting. You have to give Manteca credit too because they came back and fought.”
Lathrop 4, Manteca 3
Alexis Palomares scored his fourth goal for the Spartans in the game’s final minutes to break a tie and give Lathrop the win.
Luis Vargas and Jeffery Rauldales each had an assist for the Spartans.
Alexis Ochoa scored two goals for the Buffaloes and Hector Ramirez one with Josue Nunez getting an assist.