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Ali’s late goal propels Rutgers into second round of NCAA Tournament

Thorns’ draftee Amirah Ali scores the late winner for Rutgers.

COLLEGE WOMENS SOCCER: OCT 25 Michigan at Rutgers Photo by Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Portland Thorns FC’s third draft pick of 2021, Amirah Ali, did not feature until the second half in Rutgers’ first-round win in the NCAA women’s soccer tournament, but was pivotal in the Scarlet Knights’ 1-0 defeat of Southeastern Louisiana.

Southeastern Louisiana entered the match looking for their first-ever NCAA tournament win, entering the tourney in good form. The Lady Lions had won eleven straight matches prior to today.

The Scarlet Knights lost to Wisconsin in their last match in the Big Ten Tournament semifinals. This is their ninth straight appearance in the NCAA tournament.

Rutgers head coach Mike O’Neil surprised everyone by starting Ali on the bench. The Scarlet Knights started the match on the front foot and after a choppy start, controlled the match. The first chance of the match fell to Rutgers’ Julianne Leskauskas. She fired a shot to the hands of the keeper after receiving a square ball in the box.

In the 18th minute, the ball was crossed to Nneka Moneme, who tapped her shot just wide at the back post. Leskauskas fired from distance and forced the goalkeeper Nadine Maher into a finger-tip save to keep Rutgers out.

SLU built momentum as the first half came to a close with a few forays into Rutgers’ final third, but came up short of a goal.

The Scarlet Knights started the second half quickly, putting Maher under pressure. The Lady Lions continue to withstand pressure and looked to strike on the counter.

Ali was finally subbed on for the Scarlet Knights in the 61st minute, wearing a wrap on her right thigh.

The Lady Lions’ Ellie Williams recovered a deflected ball and ran in on goal with nine minutes left in regulation. She was pushed wide by the Rutgers defender and forced to shot from the top of the 18-yard box and her shot was saved.

Ali scored the game-winner with less than four minutes on the clock after tapping home a shot Maher saved from the initial shot from Allison Lowrey.

Ali and Rutgers will play Clemson at 4 p.m. (Pacific) on Friday, April 30.