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Nino Lifts Liberty to Double OT Win
Juan Nino scored with 20 seconds remaining in the second overtime to push the Liberty Flames past the VMI Keydets, 3-2, in a Big South men's soccer match, Tuesday afternoon at Patchin Field.
Unbeaten in its last five matches (4-0-1), Liberty moves to 4-3 in the conference and 9-5-1 overall. VMI drops to 1-6 in the conference standings and 2-13 overall.
With the contest in its final minute, Karol Chorak (Fr., MF, Saint Louis, Mo.) tipped a pass to Juan Guzman (Jr., MF, Charlotte, N.C.), who sent a quick dish to Nino (Fr., MF, Katy, Texas) in front of the net. The freshman flicked the ball over diving VMI goalkeeper Brad Sowell for the golden goal and the win.
Carrying play during the game's opening minutes on a slippery field, Liberty struck for an early advantage in the seventh minute. Off a free kick from the right side, Flames midfielder Joshua Boateng (Sr., F, Accra, Ghana) lifted a pass into the 18-yard box, which Chris Phillips (R-Fr., MF, Brownsburg, Ind.) headed to defender Mike Gelatt (R-Sr., Indianapolis, Ind.). Gelatt's bicycle kick sailed into the upper corner of the net for a 1-0 Liberty lead at 6:04, and was the defender's first goal of the season.
VMI evened the match at the 16:15. After Liberty goalkeeper Andrew Madero (So., Tampa, Fla.) was called for using his hand outside the 18-yard box, Jose Andueza converted the ensuing penalty kick, knotting the game at 1-1.
After the Keydets' marker, play settled into the midfield until Liberty's Chorak broke free in the 38th minute and fired a low liner on net, which VMI goalkeeper Brian Sowell was forced to grab with a diving save.
Liberty took back the advantage in the 42nd minute. On a free kick just outside the penalty area, Boateng blasted a shot which was blocked out by Sowell. The rebound rolled out to an attacking Phillips, who ripped the carom into the open right side of the net for a 2-1 Flames edge at 41:34.
Less than 2:30 later, VMI knotted the score at 2-2 to close the opening half. Off the first corner kick of the game for the Keydets, Andrueza lofted a kick into the center of the 18-yard box, which midfielder Brian Harding headed high into the top of the net for his third goal of the year, sending the contest to halftime tied.
Liberty opened the second half by working the ball into free space for Boateng, who rocketed a shot high less than four minutes in.
The Flames kept on the attack and found midfielder Nino for a shot in the 55th minute. Chris Osborne (Jr., MF, York, Pa.) pounced on a loose ball off the right side of the penalty area. He lofted a crossing pass into the middle of the box for Nino, who headed a hard shot high.
In the 64th minute, Liberty's pressure once again created a shot opportunity. Midfielder Guzman fired a shot from inside the penalty area, which was blocked by Sowell. The loose ball was settled in close by Nino, who crossed it over to Guzman. The midfielder launched his second shot of the sequence, only to have it corralled by Sowell.
Boateng had the Flames' 25th shot of regulation blocked by a defender in the 85th minute, sending the game to an extra period.
The first extra period began with Liberty making a long run on the attack, two minutes into the stanza. The Flames were able to clear a VMI possession to Osborne on the Keydet side of midfield. The junior made a run up the left side and fed a pass to Boateng in the Liberty midfield. Boateng then made a long run of his own into the VMI penalty area, but was unable to get off a shot.
In the 95th minute, Liberty was able to work the ball to Guzman on the far left post for a shot. However, the midfielder lifted his attempt just over the crossbar, keeping the game knotted.
VMI got its only shot attempt of the period in the 98th minute. Harding lifted an attempt from just outside the left side of the penalty area, which Madero easily saved.
Liberty once again stretched the field and got a scoring opportunity two minutes into the second overtime. Nino stepped in the way of a VMI pass and broke free from a pack of defenders and moved onto the Flames' side of the field. Reaching Keydet defenders, he pushed a pass forward for Boateng. The senior made a run toward the goal, but lost his footing on the wet field and was not able to attempt a shot.
With under a minute left, Nino would flip the ball past the keeper for the game-winner and a 3-2 victory.
Liberty outshot VMI by a wide margin in the contest, 30-6, and also held the edge in corner kicks, 8-3.
Madero made two saves in the Liberty net, while Sowell recorded nine stops in the contest.
Liberty returns home for its final regular-season game on Saturday afternoon, when it hosts UNC Asheville. Game time is scheduled for 1 p.m.