By Santiago Mejia
The City College Rams stunned Las Positas College Hawks with a goal in extra time, securing a win in Saturday morning’s playoff game with a final score of 2-1.
The winning goal came just minutes after the start of the second half of extra time.
Cesar Mendoza scored from inside the box from a volley into the bottom-right corner of the goal. When he connected with the ball, it slowly made its way into goal, passing several Hawks defenders and the goalkeeper, who stared at it for a few seconds before reacting and diving for the ball unsuccessfully.
“I didn’t expect it at all,” Mendoza, the City College sophomore defender, said. “I hit (the ball) and I thought it was going out, but then it started slowly spinning (into the goal).”
“It was the best feeling ever,” he added.
The goal followed a solid first-half performance where the Rams took control of the game.
“The plan was to pressure them in the beginning and to create something off of their mistakes,” Adam Lucarelli, the Rams head coach, said. “I felt we had control in the first twenty (minutes).”
The Rams had possession of the ball far longer than the Hawks did in the first half and they utilized the sidelines with quick passes and crosses.
Long passes were also used to send the ball down the middle into Hawks territory, creating several goal scoring opportunities, but the shots were either off target or saved by the Hawks goalkeeper.
The pace of the game became more intense, despite the wet field as rain poured over the college hours before the match started.
“We can’t let them do this,” yelled the Hawks goalkeeper from his box to his team. “Continue the pressure!”
Hawks players fouled the Rams a few times in an attempt to slow down the pace. A few yellow cards were drawn out by the referee against the Hawks for the fouls.
The momentum of the game could have changed dramatically near the 25th minute of the game when the Rams committed a foul just outside their own box.
The Hawks took the free kick, but the Rams’ human wall deflected the ball from going through. The same player who took the free kick shot the rebound and blasted it into the bottom-right corner of the goal.
Hawks players immediately celebrated, but the referee called an infraction on the play, rendering the goal invalid.
In the 35th minute, the Rams found themselves inside the Hawks’ box for a corner. The cross was driven near the goal and went over the head of Rams sophomore Jorge Candejas, who lifted his right hand up in an attempt to replicate the ‘Hand of God,’ but quickly put his hand down as the ball was too high.
The goalkeeper fisted the ball away, but the ball landed inside the box where Rams tried to capitalize on the Hawks’ mistake.
Rams center Guilherme Siqueria was the first player to get a strike at the ball, but the shot was deflected by the goalkeeper. Siqueria took a second strike, but the ball was blocked by a nearby defender’s leg. Rams freshman forward Juan Vasquez then took control of the ball.
Vasquez had an open opportunity as the goalkeeper laid on the floor next to him. With the goal only a few feet away, Vasquez dribbled around the goalkeeper, but before he could get a shot at the wide-open net, a defender came from behind and kicked the ball away.
The Rams continued their attacks down field, but they couldn’t score.
“It was unlucky,” Emmanuel Jimenez, the Rams’ sophomore goalkeeper, said. We just wanted to destroy them, but we couldn’t get the ball to the back of the net.”
Only minutes before halftime, the Hawks did find the back of the net, knocking some momentum away from the Rams.
Hawks Efrain Bonilla struck the ball towards the corner of the goal, forcing Jimenez to stretch every inch of his body in an attempt to fingertip the ball, but it spinned past him and into the goal.
Minutes later the referee blowed his whistle, signaling halftime.
The Hawks looked a lot more comfortable and confident with a 1-0 lead, taking some control of the pace, but it was not enough to stop the Rams from continuing to drive down the sidelines and pass deep balls down the middle.
After pounding the sidelines, the Rams finally broke through with a goal in the 12th minute.
“I saw the ball from the cross, I didn’t think I’d get it, but when I got it, I headed the ball and it went in,” said Rams sophomore center Andy Altamirano, who was inside the Hawks box and only a few feet from goal when he powerfully struck the ball, stunning the goalkeeper.
Altamirano ran towards the nearby corner flag as the team ran towards him to celebrate his game tying goal.
The game was evenly played to the 90th minute as both teams continued to strike for goal with no luck.
Rams goalkeeper Jimenez came up with huge saves in the last few minutes of the the second half and the last few seconds of extra time.
A powerful strike late in the second half was headed towards goal, only to be palmed away by Jimenez for a corner kick. Jimenez later saved the corner kick play.
Play of the game
In the last minutes of extra time, the Hawks drilled the ball from outside the box. Propelled by the wet field, the ball was driven on the ground and headed towards the outside post.
“I saw the ball crossing every person on the field and I saw (a Hawks player) go right in front of me (for the ball),” Jimenez said. “So I threw myself trying to make myself as big as I can and I came out with the save.”
The unguarded striker was only a few feet from goal when he struck the ball at first touch, but couldn’t get the ball passed the Jimenez. Hawks supporters, spectators reacted in disbelief as Rams supporters cheered on.
Jimenez made another huge save in the final seconds of the game as a long pass was delivered to a Hawks striker in proximity to the goal. Before the Hawks could header it, Jimenez leaped over the player and fisted the ball away, knocking himself to the ground.
The final whistle was blown moments after. Soon after, the Rams’ bench cleared and celebrated with their teammates on the field.
“Very relieved, very relieved,” Lucarelli said, when asked how he felt after the game. “We dug deep. I’m happy with the way we won and we just got to keep on pushing.”
To prepare for the second round of playoffs, the Rams are going rest and watch game films of their next opponent to strategize.