The field was opening up for the Michigan men’s soccer team.
Senior midfielder Ivo Cerda’s inspired run from the center line into the box culminated in a pass played into the feet of sophomore forward Umar Farouk Osman. Osman skillfully held up the ball and nudged it to Jack Hallahan standing right on the edge of the 18 yard-line.
The junior attacker chopped the ball back onto his right foot and unleashed a curling shot into the top corner.
“I knew that a guy was behind me,” Hallahan said. “I saw his shadow come in, so I chopped it backwards knowing I would beat him — knowing the keeper was set off guard, so I had a go and got lucky.”
If the Wolverines (2-0-1 Big Ten, 6-1-1 overall) sat comfortably before, now with a three-goal advantage, they switched into cruise control against Ohio State (0-2-1,1-6-2). So much so that the Buckeyes were able to pull one back in the dying embers of the game, making the final scoreline 3-1 in Michigan’s favor.
The Wolverines maintained control throughout. Senior defender Daniel Mukuna headed home a corner kick from Hallahan in the 21st minute to open the scoring.
Prior to the end of the first half though, Mother Nature made her presence known. The teams had to endure a 50-minute lightning delay before they could finish out the remaining 4:18.
“We waited,” said Michigan coach Chaka Daley. “But as soon as we figured out the timing, we just kinda went back in and said ‘Hey, we don’t want to have a lull after the long break. Let’s get out and focus on getting things right.’ Passing the ball properly and getting back to competing as well as we did in the first half.”
Half-time was shortened to just two minutes and when play resumed, the Wolverines picked up right where they left off.
Ohio State’s occasional spell of possession was cut out by the Michigan backline while the few chances the Buckeyes had early in the second half amounted to nothing. At the same time, the Wolverines hung onto their one-goal lead and would’ve liked insurance.
With frustrations mounting on both sides, the game became somewhat chippy. Players on each team received yellow cards and free kicks became frequent.
The rising pressure was alleviated for Michigan in the 74th minute when Osman capitalized on a rebound opportunity, neatly placing it past the Ohio State goalkeeper.
The remaining 15 minutes, though eventful, proved fairly easy for the Wolverines, who now turn their attention to the meat of their schedule against powerhouses No. 2 Indiana, No. 5 Michigan State and No. 20 Notre Dame.
“Not every game is going to be comfortable late in the game at 3-0 so we want to make sure we have good habits and continue to build,” Daley said. “The strength of our schedule is to come — the challenge is in front of us. We’re up for it, there is no question about it.”