In the 21st minute of the Michigan men’s soccer game Saturday, freshman midfielder Francis Atuahene received a pass at midfield, turned his defender, took off down the left sideline and fired a dangerous left-footed shot from outside the 18-yard box.
Wisconsin goalkeeper Adrian Remeniuk made one of his six saves on the day but was unable to corral it, and the ball spilled out to a waiting Colin McAtee, who pounced on the rebound to put the Wolverines up 2-1. The fifth-year senior midfielder’s second goal of the contest Saturday looked to be the game-winner for Michigan.
It wasn’t, as Wisconsin mounted a furious rally in the second half, forcing the Wolverines to buckle down on defense just to secure a 3-3 tie.
The Badgers went up early on a shot through the legs of Michigan sophomore goalie Evan Louro, but the Wolverines equalized minutes later when junior defender Rylee Woods hit an indirect free kick into the box and McAtee used his height to beat his defender and head the ball in for a goal.
“I thought it was a good battle,” McAtee said. “They were two big boys. I wouldn’t say I necessarily had an advantage or disadvantage (physically) but I thought I did well on the goal to get around my man.”
Michigan tacked on a third goal for good measure when Atuahene improved his Big Ten-leading goal tally to seven with a curling shot from the left side of the 18-yard box that somehow snuck through the Wisconsin back line and past the outstretched hand of the Badger goaltender.
“(Atuahene) is the dribbler, (senior forward William Mellors-Blair) is kind of the runner and (McAtee) is kind of the target and the power,” said Michigan coach Chaka Daley. “We have a good combination of all three. They got it ticking for a little while, but the game slowed down.”
Added McAtee: “We’re all fast, but (Atuahene and Mellors-Blair) are probably even a little quicker than me, and I think I’m more of the guy who’s better in the air and at getting headers and holding the ball up. You know they want to find the ball in space or out wide so they can attack players one on one.”
The good times did not last for the Wolverines, however, as Wisconsin midfielder Christopher Mueller curled a free kick over the Michigan wall and into the back of the net just before the end of the first half.
The Badgers completed the comeback just three minutes into the second half when forward Nick Jones capitalized on a loose ball inside Michigan’s 18-yard line to tie the game at 3.
Throughout the second half, Michigan and Wisconsin battled to take the lead, though neither team could gain an advantage, and the game went to sudden-death overtime.
The Wolverines’ best chance during overtime came when sophomore defender Billy Stevens put a dangerous free kick into the Wisconsin box, but Michigan was unable to take advantage of the scoring chance. Despite controlling possession and outshooting the Badgers 8-0, the Wolverines couldn’t put the finishing touch on the game.
“I think we weren’t at our best today,” Daley said. “I thought we played OK. I think we could have played better, certainly done some things better at home, but the big picture is that in the Big Ten standings, after the halfway point we’re on eight points, and that’s an important thing.”
Halfway through the Big Ten season, the Wolverines sit atop the conference, but will be looking to improve their ability to close out games in their quest for a regular-season championship.