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Ali scores equalizer; Rutgers win PK shootout over Arkansas to advance to NCAA College Cup

Amirah Ali scored Rutgers’ equalizer and converted in the penalty shootout.

Ben Solomon/Rutgers Athletics

Portland Thorns draftee Amirah Ali scored and converted her penalty in Rutgers’ penalty shootout win over Arkansas. The Scarlet Knights advanced to the NCAA College Cup in Santa Clara, CA.

Rutgers and Arkansas battled to a 2-2 (PK 4-2) result at the Scarlet Knights’ Yurcak Field in Piscataway, NJ Friday. The match was fast-paced from start to finish and featured both teams thriving in transition.

The Razorbacks thought they had the lead in the first minute but rattled the post instead and it would be Rutgers who took advantage early. In the third minute, Riley Tiernan unleashed a left-footed rocket from distance. The Arkansas keeper got an outstretched hand to the ball but the shot had too much power and drifted into the top corner of the net.

The Razorbacks responded by putting the Scarlet Knights under pressure and it didn’t take them long to find an equalizer. Taylor Malham played a pass to the feet of Ana Podojil inside the 18-yard box. Podojil took the ball down, let it bounce, turned and scooped the ball over the keeper and into the back of the net.

Seven minutes later, Arkansas took the lead. Parker Goins swung a corner into the area and Reagan Swindall beat three Rutgers defenders to the ball and headed it into the back of the net.

Ali had multiple chances to equalize. She turned past a defender and took the ball past midfield and into the box. The forward tried to take the ball around the on-rushing keeper and scuffed her shot wide. In the 31st minute, she received a cutback and looped it over the bar.

With a little over two minutes left in the half, the Thorns’ draftee cut inside on her right foot and smashed it into the crossbar and it bounced out. Ali finally got her goal 40 seconds later. Tiernan slotted Ali through on goal. The forward lifted it over the goalkeeper and into the back of the net to tie the match 2-2.

Tiernan had an opportunity to score her second goal early in the second stanza but lifted it over the goal. The Razorbacks continued to cause Rutgers problems on set pieces and forced Meagan McClelland into a good save.

The Scarlet Knights were able to get more of a foothold in the final 15 minutes. In the 79th minute, Tiernan dribbled to the end line and tried to nutmeg the keeper. The shot trickled through but an Arkansas defender was able to make a sliding clearance to prevent the goal.

Neither team was able to find a winner in regulation and the teams went into extra time tied at 2-2. The Scarlet Knights dominated the final minutes of the first half of extra time and Ali was fed through on goal in the last minute but she sliced her shot wide of the post.

There were a lack of quality chances in the second period of extra time and the Scarlet Knights’ fate would be decided by a second consecutive penalty shootout.

McClelland guessed the right way and saved the first Arkansas penalty to give Rutgers the early advantage. Ali put her penalty into the top corner and the next Razorback hit her shot off the post and bounced out. The Scarlet Knights solidified their lead and made it 3-1. Arkansas converted their next penalty but it didn’t matter. Tiernan stepped up and slotted it home to send Rutgers to the NCAA College Cup.

Ali and Rutgers will play Florida State in the NCAA College Cup. The semifinal will be played at Stevens Stadium in Santa Clara, CA at 4 or 6:30 p.m. PST. The match will be broadcast on ESPNU.