By Nikhil Kanoor
The NJIT men’s soccer home opener was a game that will remain in the minds of all who attended as one of the best games in recent years. Despite a shaky start from the Highlanders, they ultimately rallied and came back from a 2-0 deficit to tie the game in the last minute of regulation before winning in extra time.
The match started in the worst possible way for the Highlanders, who conceded after two minutes when Niagara defender Koby Sapon-Amoah scored after a defensive lapse. Things did not get much better for the Highlanders from there, with several good shots either going agonizingly wide or being well saved by Niagara goalkeeper Joel Gerberich. Despite having the edge in shots taken, NJIT went into the half trailing 1-0.
Not much changed for the Highlanders in the second half, as they came out flat and conceded in the 54th minute when Niagara forward Alex Dimitriu followed up the rebound from his shot and easily scored. All seemed lost…or did it?
With nothing to lose at this point, the Highlanders started to stream forward and attack the Niagara goal. This persistence paid off, when Rickardo Oldham’s pass found Joshua Mercer in the penalty area. Mercer’s shot appeared to be deflected, but rolled in off the post. With 16 minutes left, it appeared as though there was still a chance for the Highlanders to come back. Niagara began playing possession in order to keep the Highlanders from launching any more attacks, and they nearly succeeded. However, a foul on Mercer by Niagara in the 89th minute meant that the Highlanders had one last chance, from a free kick 25 yards out. Oldham stood over it, and arrowed a shot into the upper left corner that Niagara keeper Gerberich had no chance of getting to. With the game tied, both sides simply waited out the last thirty seconds before the start of extra time.
The Highlanders kept up the momentum in extra time and launched attack after attack on the Niagara goal. Oldham went close with a shot that left the keeper stranded but could not beat the post. Towards the end of the first period of extra time, Gerberich was only able to parry a fierce shot, and the ball fell to Mercer, who made no mistake with his finish. With the win, the Highlanders move to 2-2 on the season, and their next game will be at home on Wednesday against Rhode Island.