Windsor got off to a strong start against Master's FA Saints this weekend, with a goal in the opening five minutes from Brydon Cesar, before the game was put to bed in the second half with a debut goal from Christian Dragoi.
Stars' Head Coach Steve Vagnini set forth another interesting lineup as he continues to look for the perfect formula. With Brett Holmberg absent from the starting eleven, Vagnini gave the central striker role to Cesar, and a debut start for Dragoi. As it turned out, Vagnini's faith in both players would pay dividends on the day.
Windsor got off to a rampaging start, applying pressure on the Master's FA backline immediately following the whistle. The pressure resulted in an early free kick from twenty yards out. Dragoi was alert to the lack of marking on Michael Pio in the box, laying a soft pass through that allowed Pio to have an open shot on net, but the ball cannoned off the upright. Still, Stars were encouraged by opportunity and continued to venture forward.
A minute later the ball would find its way into the back of the net as a scramble ensued after a Master's defender and their keeper, Lopez, failed to clear the ball. The indecision by Lopez allowed Stars' forward Cesar to poke the ball over the oncoming keeper, opening his goalscoring account and getting the Stars off to a wonderful start.
Clearly confident from the goal scored earlier, and dominating a large portion of the possession, Stars took the game directly at the visiting team, who were perhaps feeling the effects of the long trip. Masters FA appeared to have great difficulty settling in the early stages, and conceding early proved to be a mental obstacle to the team.
Saints' first attempt on goal came just before the half-hour mark of the game. Louis Jordan Brazil was able to wiggle himself away from the Stars defense, and though the shot sailed over the bar, signs that the visiting team might be slowly coming into the game began to show.
Debutant Dragoi made his presence felt in the first half, again playing in Pio, who in turn played a pacy cross that lacked the accuracy to hit the head of teammate Alex Mendoca.
The final ten minutes of the half became a very open and fluid affair, with both teams trying to impose their will on the game, resulting in a rash of tackles and a scrappy atmosphere. The ref displayed great control of the game, keeping his cards in his pocket – much to the frustration of the visiting bench.
Early in the second half, Masters FA was forced to make a substitution. Brazil seemed to be struggling from a knock he received earlier, and Junior Groves – head coach of Master's – decided that the treatment table was needed.
Master's were the first to threaten the goal in the second half – a pass from Leshron Woods-Henry to Michael Themelis setting up the winger with a great chance to tie the game – but Themelis dragged the shot just wide.
Stars would quickly double their lead after Dragoi broke-in behind the defence on a clear break. Master's keeper Lopez did well to close down the angles, but the shot was placed low in the corner and was a just result after the forward's great play throughout the game.
In the sixty-seventh minute, Trae Green came close to putting the visiting team on the board after a well placed cross from Michael Themelis found an unmarked Green. The forward got up high to head the ball towards target, but the shot unfortunately lacked the accuracy and pace to beat Santili.
Two minutes later, Michael Pio broke through on another clear breakaway for the Stars. With nothing but the keeper to beat, Lopez pulled off a great reaction save and palmed the ball wide of the post to keep Saints' hopes alive.
After several attempts to beat the offside trap, Dragoi would finally see the assistant official's flag stay down as he had a remarkable third clear break for the Stars; Lopez again closed down angles well, and with only the short side of the net open the striker’s shot drifted wide of the mark.
Finally the tempo began to slow as Stars no longer felt the need to push forward for a third goal, and Master's struggled to penetrate. The result appeared certain in the late stage, and the final whistle guaranteed Windsor three more points.