In the season's Big Ten season opener, MSU (3-1) defeated Rutgers (0-4) 4-0 on Friday afternoon. The Spartans had to wait for the breakthrough, as it took an entire first half of possession and eight shots before sophomore forward Ryan Sierakowski finally netted a free kick 21 seconds before the halftime. Then, the goals poured, with many second-half chances and conversions.
"You just wonder if it's going to be one of those games," MSU coach Damon Rensing said about the wait for the goal. "Even at 1-0 at half, we played about as good as we can play and we're only up one-nothing. But, you know, these guys stayed the course, and every time I've had a little bit of doubt, these guys have responded and proved me wrong."
The Spartans pressured Rutgers throughout the half, owning most of the possessions and bombarding the Scarlet Knights' back line with runs and passes. MSU forced five corner kicks in the half.
Three minutes in, MSU almost cut the tension after Rutgers botched a corner collection. Later on, Sierakowski wriggled loose and had an open header on a corner, but was inaccurate. Junior defender Brad Centala was denied by agile goalkeeping. Freshman defenseman Michael Pimlott wound up even more open than Sierakowski thanks to a corner that sailed to the center of the box but skipped wide.
The Spartans would get their first goal right as the clock dwindled. Freshman Giuseppe Barone won an advantage free kick from 22 yards out at the central left top of the box, setting up a scoring attempt. Sierakowski commanded the position, saw Greczek unsettled in goal, and struck, the ball deflecting off of the wall and into the top-right corner. Greczek was unable to recover, and MSU broke through.
It was the first time all year that Michigan State had scored first. At halftime, the Spartans led 1-0, with nine shots to Rutgers' zero.
"Fortunately, we got the first goal," Krolicki said. "We gotta, you know, go for the next one."
The second half was started by Rutgers' bite back, although the efforts were snubbed. Two long range looks went wide, and Michigan State resumed total control. The Spartans had several near efforts, most noticeably when Herr marginally slipped through a perfect pass to set away Jones, whose narrow shot was saved.
"We knew that Rutgers was really going to bring it up a notch. They were going to try to get that equalizer," Sierakowski said. "We wanted to defend well, keep that clean sheet, and attacking-wise, just keep doing what we were doing. We knew the chances would fall, and they did the second half."
The second goal expectedly came from substitute Michael Marcantognini, who was quickly greeted by a humming Herr mid-cross to the near post, and raised his leg to bring it down. Swiveling away from the defense, Marcantognini leaned back and delivered a quick-hit strike while falling back, accurately placing it in the far left bottom corner and finessing the game-clincher.
Later on, Barone won the ball in an offensive position and made his way through to send in a cross. The ball beamed off of Kieran Kemmerer, who chased to clear but didn't see Krolicki in position, unintentionally taking him down for an uncontroversial penalty. Krolicki fooled the keeper with a stuttered run up and easily rolled the ball into the opposite corner, giving the Spartans the final 4-0 lead.
"(This is) probably our most complete performance," Rensing said about the game.
For MSU, the win constituted their first easy game of the season and a positive start to the Big Ten campaign. The Spartans next prepare for two in-state rivalry games, playing both Oakland and Michigan.
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