Men's soccer downs Williams 2-0, with two goals by Opoku

The Bates men's soccer celebrates after defeating Williams 2-0 on Sunday, September 23, 2018. (Samuel Mironko '21 for Bates College)

LEWISTON, Maine -- Junior forward Eric Opoku scored back-to-back goals less than two minutes apart in the second half, and goalie Robbie Montanaro led an outstanding defensive effort, as the Bates men's soccer team defeated Williams 2-0 Sunday on Russell Street Field.

Bates (4-2, 2-2 NESCAC) completed a 2-0 weekend against NESCAC opponents Wesleyan and Williams. Williams (3-1-1, 2-1-1 NESCAC) suffered its first loss of the season.

"Williams was as advertised and [head coach Aaron] Sullivan has his side regimented to push or beat anyone in the country," said Bates head coach Tyler Sheikh. "I know Williams was a little banged up, but I'm proud of the guys and their efforts to disrupt a talented Ephs team."

The game was well-played on both sides and scoreless until the 56th minute. Bates junior midfielder Peder Bakken (Seattle, Wash.) won a 50-50 ball at midfield and charged into open space ahead, dribbling up the middle and shooting from the top of the circle toward the upper right corner. Williams goalkeeper Aaron Schein got his right hand on it to deflect it toward the left post. Opoku (Accra, Ghana) then one-timed the ball off a bounce with his left foot, but Williams back Liam Bardong was there to block it with his thigh. The ball came back to Opoku's right foot, and he poked the ball past Schein's reach into the right-side netting for the 1-0 lead. The goal was Opoku's first of the season and his first career score in conference play.

Bates doubled its lead less than two minutes later. With 32:39 left, after the second of consecutive Williams fouls in their defensive end, Bakken set up for a free kick 25 yards away from the Eph goal, slightly to the left side. The captain ripped a wicked curling shot to send Schein diving full-out to his right. The ball caught the bottom of the left goalpost and skittered off to the right. Opoku was quickly on his way to the spot well ahead of any other player, and was able to easily poke the ball in for his second goal.

The action only intensified as the second half went on, with both teams creating chances to score in close succession.

Montanaro (Belmont, Mass.) earned his fourth shutout this season and the 10th in his career with nine saves, including several big plays in the final 15 minutes. On a beautiful laser shot with 15:10 to go by Gregory Andreou, Montanaro dived full-out to his left to spike the ball aside. A minute later, Montanaro sprang out of the goal to snare a wicked cross from the right by Williams. With 11:10 to go, Montanaro leaped up to stop a shot directed just under the crossbar by Andreou. A minute after that, Bates' first-year Ciaran Bardong (Manhasset, N.Y.) countered with a 25-yard shot from Bardong that was flicked just over the crossbar by Schein. Less than a minute after that, a clever passing play out of a Bates throw-in was capped by a clever pass along the baseline from senior Morgan Dewdney (Meriden, N.H.) to a cutting Liam Goldfarb (New York, N.Y.), who redirected the ball just wide of the post.

Bates outshot Williams by a 16-12 margin, with Schein making three saves for the Ephs.

Bates' senior class defeated Williams twice in their careers and tied once, for a head-to-head record of 2-1-1 against the Ephs. Bates' last win over Williams was a 2-1 result in 2015 in Williamstown. 

Following Saturday's 1-0 win over Wesleyan, the win puts Bates in a tie for fourth place in the conference standings with Hamilton and Middlebury.

Bates next plays at Trinity on Saturday at 2pm; Williams will host RPI on Wednesday at 4:30pm.

"We told ourselves that if we're happy with two wins on this weekend, then it will stay just two wins on this weekend," said Sheikh. "Something tells me we'll be ready to compete next Saturday."