It took some effort. And time.
But by the end of Tuesday’s match at Buffalo Stadium, the host Garden City Buffaloes had established themselves as the clearly better side in a 3-1 win over visiting Great Bend.
The Buffs (7-2, 3-2) controlled the pace, and the ball, for nearly the entire match, and created several scoring chances against the Panthers (3-7, 2-3). The attack was not the problem — it was finishing those attacks, at least early, which is something the Buffs have struggled with all season.
“We had two shots that I think should have been 3-0 (in the first half), but we end up with 1-0,” GCHS head coach Joaquin Padilla said. “But I thought we controlled the whole game.”
After just that single tally in the first half, the Buffs could not seal the win until the 68th minute, when Salvador Bustos rocketed in a low shot into the bottom right corner from 20 yards out to make it 2-0. Alonso Vera set up the shot with a run into the box and a back-of-his-boot pass to Bustos for the strike, which froze the Great Bend keeper, Alberto Leyva, who could do nothing but watch the ball skid into the goal.
Just three minutes later, Bustos got his second goal — and the third for the Buffs — with a penalty kick, after a run into the Great Bend box was stopped by Leyva jumping into the attacker, drawing the penalty.
“We did pretty well,” Bustos said. “We struggled at times early, but second half we played really, really good. We finished them off.”
The score could have easily been 2-0 or 3-0 at half, with as many opportunities as the Buffs had on point-blank chances, but each time was just a little bit off. The goalkeeper would get a hand on it, the ball would take a weird bounce or a Buffs player just couldn’t control the ball enough to put it into an empty net.
But Vera, a junior, finally broke that skid in the 39th minute, when the ball was passed back off a defender by Rodrigo Oropeza, and Vera put it into the left side of the net for the opener.
Great Bend had its chances to equalize, including a sharp cross and header that sent the ball just over the Garden City crossbar in the 53rd minute, and then the Buffs nearly gave them one when keeper Jose Betanco left goal to stop a corner kick, but just knocked the ball back onto the foot of a Great Bend attacker. Fortunately for the Buffs, the shot from the wide angle went wide, and the Buffs maintained the early 1-0 lead.
The Panthers — who just a week prior took Dodge City to overtime — could not find the net until the 90th minute, when Humberto Alonzo scored to avoid the shutout.
“I thought it was pretty solid,” Padilla said of the win. “Defense played well — had a little bit of difficulty in the middle, but other than that, I thought we controlled the whole thing.”