EDWARDSVILLE – For the second time this season, the Alton Redbirds pushed the defending Class 3A state soccer champion Edwardsville Tigers to the limit.
The Tigers’ Max Kieffer pushed back Tuesday night at the District 7 Sports Complex.
Kieffer scored two goals, including the winner in the second overtime, to give the Tigers a 2-1 Southwestern Conference victory. The league-leading Tigers improved to 5-0 in the SWC. They are 11-2-1 overall. The Redbirds, who tied Edwardsville 2-2 in August at the AHS Tournament, are 6-4-2 and 1-3.
“It was a really big win and we knew it was a game we had to win,” Kieffer said. “I put it (winning goal) in a perfect place and it’s the first time I’ve scored two goals in a varsity game.”
He headed home a shot from Suleman Bazai at 93:54 to decide it. Kieffer also tallied a goal at 31:43 to knot things at 1-1. Alton’s Carl Stradal scored at 25:07 to put the Redbirds on top. Alex Piazza logged an assist on the direct kick to Stradal.
“I’m proud of our kids because we played hard and we played well,” Redbirds’ coach Jay Robertson said. “We answered the bell in the second half and we were pushing quite a bit.”
In the first half, Alton’s lone shot was Stradal’s goal. However, the Birds had a couple of chances to score before Kieffer got his winner.
Piazza had a good shot on goal with three minutes to play in regulation, but Edwardsville keeper Trey Riley made the save. Riley also stopped a point-blank shot from Drew Hays in the second overtime.
Then Kieffer went to work. He headed home the decisive goal off Bazai’s corner kick.
“It was a tough shot, but a textbook shot,” Edwardsville coach Mark Heiderscheid said of the winner. “He (Kieffer) is very good in that arena and lethal on a set piece like that one.”
The Tigers, the 2013 IHSA 3A champions, outshot the Redbirds 13-5 and held a 5-3 advantage in corner kicks. Alton goalie Shane Bollini had four saves, while Edwardsville keepers Trentan Daley and Riley combined for four stops. The officials doled out four yellow cards, three against the Redbirds.
“You have to like where Alton is this season,” Heiderscheid said. “It might be the best team Jay has had. They have some great seniors and make it very difficult for you.
“They have played us tough both times. It could have gone either way each time.”
The conference rivals could play again. Alton is cast with Quincy and Granite City in the 3A Edwardsville Regional. The Tigers figure to get the top seed, while the Redbirds could be rated second.
“We’re right there,” Robertson said of the Redbirds’ inspired play. “And we will be back here in two or three weeks.”
EDWARDSVILLE 2, ALTON 1, 2 OTs
Alton 1 0 (0) (0) – 1
Edwardsville 1 0 (0) (1)—2
A – Stradal (Piazza), 25:07
E – Kieffer (Mills), 31:43
E – Kieffer (Bazai), 93:54