With two goals the Rams men’s soccer team handed the red-hot Nipissing Lakers their first loss of the season in North Bay Friday night.
The team’s captain, fifth-year midfielder Abdallah EL-Chanti scored his second goal of the season on a penalty kick in the 14th minute. In the 69th minute, first-year midfielder Zakaria Abdi netted his first OUA varsity soccer goal to give the Rams the lead.
The match started strong for the Rams as they held the majority of possession, barely giving the Lakers any room to leave their half of the pitch.
The possessive stranglehold led to a penalty kick, which EL-Chanti calmly converted into a goal, giving the team an early 1-0 lead. The Rams continued to maintain control of the game with steady ball possession, but weren’t able to capitalize on ample chances to extend their early lead.
Despite struggling out of the gate, Nipissing responded with an equalizer goal 11 minutes later — their only shot of the game. Midfielder Cedric Devos made the shot: a stunning long range strike. The ball sailed over fifth-year goalkeeper Praveen Ahilan, who dove for the ball but was not able to get to it in time.
The Rams responded by suffocating the Lakers’ offensive attack.
The rest of the half was a constant cycle of free kicks and corners from first-year midfielder Justin Santos.
The second half was more of the same, with the Lakers still struggling to advance possessions against the Rams’ defensive and midfield pressure, which made it tough for the Lakers to complete passes.
However, offensively, the Rams began to stagnate as Santos was the only one close enough to convert chances. Santos made a shot in the 50th minute that was saved by third-year Lakers goalkeeper Ryan Miners Four minutes later, he delivered a corner kick that went nowhere.
In the 55th minute, first-year midfielder Zakaria Abdi subbed in for fellow first-year midfielder Jacob Carlos, which immediately brought a new dimension to the Rams attack. Ten minutes after coming into the game, Abdi got a shot on goal, but wasn’t able to deliver the ball into the back of the net; Miners saved it.
Abdi proved the hero in the 69th minute, when he converted a corner kick from Santos to give the Rams the late lead. The team mobbed him out of bounds following the dramatic finish, and the Lakers looked on in despair, short on time to respond.
Nipissing tried to hit back, but Rams’ defence cut off every pass and won every tackle, hanging on for a 2-1 victory.
This is the sixth time in a row that the Rams have beaten the Lakers. The last time the teams faced off was October 2019, when the Rams won 5-0 — their largest margin of victory against Nipissing.
The Rams improved their record to two wins and a single loss on the season as they look to finish the season series with the Lakers on Sunday at 2:30 p.m. at Downsview Park, where they will look to sweep the doubleheader.