As the Denton Diablos wind down their regular season with work left to do to make the National Premier Soccer League playoffs, the Lubbock Matadors gave the Denton Diablos all they could handle.
With Lubbock picking up a goal in the first 10 minutes to take an early lead, the Diablos battled back to level it in the 16th minute.
However, the Matadors instantly answered with a goal less than a minute later to take a 2-1 lead that they held onto in the second half for the key victory on Saturday, July 2, at the North Texas Soccer and Track & Field Stadium.
It was a very chippy affair with both sides picking up a wealth of fouls and yellow cards and after Lubbock’s Pablo Galietero opened the scoring, the Diablos earned a free kick just outside the box.
Denton’s Diego Letayf then lasered a shot into the top-left corner of the goal past the diving Lubbock goalkeeper.
That lead didn’t last long. The Matadors saw red and immediately struck back by sending a long pass down to Mitar Mitrovic, who fielded it with one touch and ripped a low shot right to Jacob Pettigrew.
With Pettigrew stunned, Mitrovic recovered the rebound and put it into the unattended goal for the eventual game-winner.
“We didn’t play well and if you add in that we were down guys,” Denton head coach Ramon Raya said. “They beat us with long balls and long balls and long balls. They scored like that and it was our fault.”
Raya said the Diablos were doing lots of improvising with the mixed lineups and that he saw some things the team can build on.
Denton nearly evened the score with some pretty and crafty plays and it led to a flurry of shots from the Diablos, but the Lubbock keeper made some great saves in 45th minute.
The Diablos began to get crosses into the box, but they couldn’t get a clean header in on the Lubbock keeper in stoppage time.
Lubbock carried much of the play in the first 10 minutes of second half, but it looked like Denton might have tied the game minutes later.
The Diablos nearly curled one in from 35 feet out, but the Lubbock keeper made a diving save to keep the ball from entering the top-right corner of the goal.
Denton started moving better in transition, but it was also a bit tentative and couldn’t get its shots on target.
As the game drew to a close, the Diablos held the ball nearly every moment, trying to build plays together while also taking chances from distance.
But they could never get more than a testing shot or two on goal. They did muster a few corners in the final minute of stoppage time, but nothing dangerous enough to approach the goal line.
“I liked seeing the pride from the guys there at the end,” Raya said. “They didn’t want to lose and they were tired and we didn’t have enough subs. We had a few chances, but we were not lucky.”
Denton finishes the regular season on the road in Temple against Coyotes FC on Wednesday, July 6, and in Lubbock for a rematch with the Matadors.
There is still an important playoff spot on the line for the Diablos, who fell to 6-3-1 with 19 points. Raya said the only goal for the Diablos moving forward is picking up a win — any way they can get it.
“I doesn’t matter if we are in or out, we always play to win,” Raya said. “We’ve got to work this week and understand our mistakes. We’ve got to figure out a system for these players.”