This was the opportunity for which Boston College men’s soccer was waiting. After more than 90 minutes of physical soccer, where yellow cards were exchanged and injury timeouts were frequent, Abe Bibas sent a perfect long ball, high into the night sky. As the ball began its descent to the ground, Simon Enstrom freed himself from the tenacious Syracuse defense. He received the ball on a perfect hop, and passed it off to a wide open Callum Johnson. The Syracuse goalie was the final challenge to conquer. Johnson, seeing daylight ahead of him, instinctively slotted the ball in the back of the net. Before he knew it, his teammates toppled him, celebrating their first ACC win in style.
“What a great moment for him to have that coolness and calmness in front of the goal and just slide it in the pocket,” head coach Ed Kelly said.
BC (5-8, 1-5 Atlantic Coast) was determined to get opportunities against Syracuse (5-7-2, 0-5-1 Atlantic Coast) early and often in this game. BC’s offense started ferociously by putting pressure on Syracuse goalkeeper Hendrick Hilpert. In the first minute, Hilpert saved a quick Enstrom shot. The Eagles continued their offensive drive by leaving two shots wide. With BC’s offense in need of a kickstart, recording three shots in the first two minutes was encouraging.
After BC’s early opportunities, the game became a fast-paced, back-and-forth defensive affair. In the 15th minute, Antonio Chavez-Borrelli saved what would be Syracuse’s only shot on goal in the first half. The defense of Mohammed Moro was crucial to stopping this early Syracuse threat. Shortly after, this contest became chippy when the aggressive defensive efforts by these conference rivals led to them trading yellow cards in the 21st and 23rd minutes. Both defenses played with maximum effort the entire game, keeping the ball in the midfield. Because of this, there were few offensive opportunities.
This changed in the 29th minute, when Henry Balf started the scoring by finishing an Enstrom pass for a goal. He put his shot low and past a diving Hilpert for his first goal of the season. The Eagles had struggled to score during conference play, evident by their 403-minute conference scoring drought prior to this goal. Knowing that scoring chances would be hard to come by in this bitter rivalry game, BC gained momentum from this goal and rolled into the half with an encouraging lead.
Syracuse, playing from behind, started quickly in the second half by converting on a Johannes Pieles header in the 52nd minute. With this goal, Syracuse punched BC back, sending the message that this game would be a battle to the finish. As the game progressed, BC worked hard to create scoring opportunities, but could not break Syracuse’s relentless defense—in response, however, the Eagles’ defense was airtight.
In the 81st minute, Chavez-Borrelli stepped up for his team. He was faced with a header from Pieles which he denied with an incredible diving stop that saved the game. He credited his defense for keeping his team in it.
“It was [a] fabulous [effort],” Chavez-Borrelli said. “Everyone was sacrificing their bodies, sacrificing everything for the team.”
In the final minute of regulation, BC mustered up a scoring opportunity in an attempt to finish off the Orange. Younes Boudadi fired a shot that looked destined for the back of the net, only to be saved by Hilpert. The BC crowd thought it was good from the moment it left his foot, and roared in anticipation. Each goalie had their signature moment in crunch time of regulation, putting their team on their back and forcing this spirited game into overtime.
Overtime was action-packed as the teams fought for their lives. In the 92nd minute, Syracuse midfielder Jonathan Hagman was able to get a quick shot on Chavez-Borrelli, which he easily saved. This would be the last of Syracuse’s offense. Two minutes later, Johnson’s clutch heroics knocked out Syracuse, giving the Eagles a much needed home win.
Featured Image by Jacob Catania / Heights Staff