By Mario Russo
Rookie sensation Justin Santos’ two goals capped off a wild first half, paving the way to a Rams men’s soccer 3-2 victory over the Nipissing Lakers on Sunday, Oct. 10 at Downsview Park.
A powerful strike from inside the box saw the Rams midfielder open the scoring, putting the Rams up 1-0 with 15 minutes to go in the first half.
“It felt great,” Santos said following his first career OUA goals. “Always good to get the first one down, now it’s time to go get the next three points.”
Last match, it was a diving stop by the Rams goalkeeper late in the game that sparked some energy throughout the club. On Sunday, it was Rams defender Mohamad Abdallah who sent a screamer from outside the box that was turned aside from a diving Nipissing goalkeeper.
Abdallah’s shot sparked an attack lasting a full five minutes in which the Rams poured on five consecutive shots on goal, all turned aside. But the Rams continued to charge.
Captain and leading scorer Abdallah El-Chanti followed the same script he’s been accustomed to all season, earning a penalty shot and firing it past the Nippising keeper for his third goal of the season.
Forward Tomas Castaldo praised the veteran striker’s composure.
“He’s the captain leading us towards nationals…I hope he can continue that goal streak,” said Castaldo.
When it rained, it poured for the Rams offence as Santos jumped on a loose ball and curled one past a defenceless goalkeeper for his second tally of the afternoon, sending his side into the half up 3-0.
Nipissing used the intermission to regroup and try to get a footing in the contest. Slowly the bounces favoured the Lakers and soon it was the Ram’s on the defensive end of an offensive clinic.
“We took our foot off the gas,” said head coach Filip Prostran following the match.
It wasn’t until over 60 minutes passed when Nipissing showed some life. Cody Vaillancourt finished off a penalty kick to bring the Lakers within two. Following the tally, Prostran swapped out his starting goaltender Praveen Ahilan for Dante Ferraro.
“Praveen’s probably the best goalie in university soccer…the decision was made before the [penalty kick],” said Prostran.
Ferraro allowed the Lakers’ second goal of the afternoon just before the final whistle, bringing the game to 3-2 with no time left to play.
Following the match, Prostran took “full responsibility” for his team’s near-collapse against the Lakers.
“Our guys went into the second half saying ‘it’s a 3-0 game, not it’s a 0-0 game and I gotta prove myself,’” he said.
However, he added that this experience was something the team could learn from.
Despite a close call at the end of the game, the Rams men’s soccer team still came away with the victory and now they’ll look to keep a two-game winning streak alive as they head out on the road.
Next Up: The Rams men’s soccer team faces the Algoma Thunderbirds on Oct. 16 in Sault Ste. Marie. Kickoff is set for 2:30 p.m.