Mahrady's pair helps Rams past Gaels

By Sports Information
Photo by Stephen Kassim
TORONTO- Moroccan native Zach Mahrady tallied two goals, including the game-winner, while Viktor Anastasov added his OUA East leading 10th of the season, and the Ryerson Rams men's soccer team survived a late comeback attempt by Queen's, defeating the Gaels 3-2 on Sunday afternoon at Birchmount Stadium. 

The victory gives the men sole possession of second-place in the OUA East, as they sit one point up on Toronto.  The Gaels, who defeated the Varsity Blues on Saturday, drop to 5-4-1 and currently sit fourth in the division.

The first chance of the game came when Armin Tankovic (Mississauga) gave Anastasov a mini-break at the top of the box.  Queen's keeper Dylan Maxwell sprinted out, meeting the Toronto native before he could get a decent shot away and blocked the ball out of danger. 

The Rams continued to pressure early on, and Michael Jan (Toronto) was able to touch the ball past the Queen's defender on the end line before shooting a pass to Tankovic at the top-left corner of the penalty area.  Tankovic sent an arcing cross that found Mahrady's head perfectly, and the Casablanca native put Ryerson up 1-0 in the 17th minute.

Jan was at it again minutes later, threading the Gaels defense with a through ball that found the speedy Anastasov.  After being shutout one day earlier against RMC where the Toronto native had tons of chances, Anastasov was clinical, ripping a low shot underneath Maxwell to double the Rams advantage in the 25th minute. 

"Arguably the best first half of soccer that we played," stated Soccer Co-ordinator Kevin Souter.  "Queen's is a good physical team and got a great result yesterday against U of T, but the first half was excellent.  (We) started with a good tempo and energy to the game."

Ryerson held the pace early in the second half, but were stunned in the 73rd minute after Jordan Brooks (Angus, Ont.) took a quick shot that beat Aaryon Gaeeni (Toronto) on his short-side to suddenly cut the advantage in half. 

Eight minutes later, Anastasov once again made a case for himself to be a legitimate OUA MVP candidate.  The sophomore won the ball deep in the Queen's box and, amid a swarm of Gaels defenders, shook himself free to find a wide open Mahrady on the other side of the net.  His quick pass was easily finished in the back of the goal, and once again the Rams had a cushion to work with.

It turned out to be a critical insurance marker, as the Gaels connected just minutes later to bring the lead back down to one.  After an initial free kick rang off the cross-bar, it came down nicely in front of the Rams goal to Robert Lannan (Port Williams, N.S.), who headed it home to fuel the dramatic last minutes of play.

However, Queen's would not be able to find the net again, and the Rams escaped their last home contest with their seventh victory of the season.

"Second half we turned the ball over, and it became an issue for us," said Souter.  "It was sloppier; we started to lose our legs a little bit.  But the guys held on and did well."

The Rams (7-2-2) are on the home stretch of the regular season, with just three games remaining before the post-season kicks off in late October. 

With the top of the East division still very much in the air, Ryerson's next three results will be critical to where they end up in the standings.  Five points is all that separates the division's top three teams, with Carleton holding down first place with 27 points.  The Rams are next with 23, but have the Varsity Blues breathing down their necks in third with 22. 

With two of their next three matches against Toronto and the Ravens, the Rams will need to find a result in one if not both games to earn a first-round bye. 

However, they will first hit the turf against Trent on Wednesday for a mid-week battle before home to face their city rivals Toronto next Sunday at Varsity Centre. 



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