Written By: Michael Kroodsma
Michigan’s Big Ten Tournament started off with a bang as the Wolverines walked past Northwestern, winning 4-1 Sunday. It was a physical battle, and the Wolverines looked dominant for much of the match, though Northwestern gave them a run for their money early in the second half.
Francis Atuahene started the party for the hosts, scoring in the 24th minute following a good period of play. A long throw in from the right wing bounced past everyone in the box and fell kindly to Atuahene at the back post. He made no mistake and buried the ball safely in the back of the net to make it 1-0 for U of M.
Michigan were dominant in the first half, but didn’t create many other clear cut chances, and held a 1-0 lead at halftime.
The halftime team talk must have riled the Northwestern men up, as they stormed out in the second half. Just 5 minutes in, it was Northwestern’s Tommy Katsiyiannis who capitalized on a loose ball to equalize for the visitors. Shell shocked, Michigan realized there was work left to be done.
Cue Jack Hallahan.
6 minutes after Northwestern scored, Hallahan picked up the ball on the 30 yards from goal, took a look at the keeper, and picked his spot. He curled the ball to the far post, and watched as it nestled in the top corner to restore the advantage for the Wolverines. It was a truly well taken goal.
Clearly in control now, Captain Robbie Mertz decided it was his turn. Following an incredibly precise 55-yard pass from left back Marcello Borges, Robbie cushioned the ball with the outside of his boot, settled himself, and slotted the ball past Northwestern’s keeper to double the lead, 3-1.
The scoring didn’t stop there. In the 77th minute, Jack Hallahan added his 2nd and Michigan’s 4th, goal of the evening. He collected the ball on the right wing before running at his defender and curling a low drive into the bottom corner.
Northwestern pressed until the final whistle, but the match had been over for some time. Michigan defeated Northwestern, 4-1.
This was the performance we were hoping for. Keeping in mind our last match against Northwestern (a 3-1 victory that wasn’t decided until late on), it was nice to see Michigan get the job done at home. This is a matchup that Michigan should win 10 times out of 10, with all due respect to Northwestern. When you consider the talent in the Michigan side this season, there really shouldn’t be any contest between these two sides. Thankfully, Michigan took care of business.
That said, the goal Northwestern scored was troubling. Michigan allowed a lesser opponent to bundle home a sloppy equalizer at their stadium. Against stronger opposition, this easily could have been a fatal mistake. A better side may have punished the Wolverines then and there. Michigan, however, had other ideas about all that. They regained control of the match and were clinical when they needed to be. With 5 days before their next match, Michigan will be feeling confident that they can handle whatever their opponents may throw at them.
Michigan will face #5 Wisconsin (who they defeated during the regular season 2-1) in the Big Ten Tournament Semifinals, Friday November 10th @ 12:00 pm.