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That’s using your noggin! Tigers beat Hornets with last-minute header

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It was just like they drew it up.

Fort Hamilton boys’ soccer team took down Midwood 3–2 on Oct. 13 — handing the Hornets the squad’s first loss of the season — but it was what happened just before the game-winning header that made all the difference.

Ahmad Abdella and Foti Ceci met just a few feet outside of the box and came up with a plan — Ceci would take the free kick, send it toward the back post and Abdella would direct the ball into the net. It worked perfectly.

“I knew he was going to put it where I wanted it, so I ran in and I waited for the header,” Abdella said. “It lifted perfectly for me, and I saw the keeper move towards the front post and I tried to direct it in.”

The perfectly-executed play was exactly what Fort Hamilton was missing in the opening minutes of the matchup. The Tigers struggled to find the back of the net early on — missing on a handful of corner and free kick opportunities — and went into halftime down 1–0 after Midwood’s Jubael Mamon scored on a deflection in the 30th minute.

The Tigers refocused the squad’s collective energy at the break and, once the whistle blew on the second half, Fort Hamilton was a different team. The play was quicker, the passes sharper, and eventually, it started putting the ball in the back of the net.

“It was Fort Hamilton soccer,” said Tigers coach Boris Khodorkovsky. “We play possession, we play quick, and we close the space down when we’re defending. They didn’t play a bad first half, but I think they just weren’t able to step it up in the second half.”

Khaled Abdella and Ivan Gil both notched second-half goals — on Ceci-directed free kicks — and Fort Hamilton had a definite spark as the Tigers took a one-goal lead midway through the period.

Midwood, however, did not go down quietly. The Hornets knotted the game at two-all late in the half as Andrey Goryuk connected on a rocket from midfield, just out of the reach of Tigers goalkeeper Mohamed Shahin.

Once again, the Tigers went back to the drawing board, and Abdella and Ceci’s plan was just what the team needed. Fort Hamilton’s ability to execute on set pieces down the stretch was the difference-maker — and something the team hopes will set it apart in the postseason.

“We just know we have to hustle to the ball and whoever delivers the ball has to make the best pass possible,” Ceci said. “No matter how the other team plays against us, we try and focus on what we can do.”

Midwood had one final opportunity to score, but a strong defensive play by Panagiotis Papamichalakis kept the ball out of the net. The victory is a big-time confidence boost for the Tigers, and Fort Hamilton now controls its own destiny heading into the final few games of the regular season.

That, of course, was always the plan.

“It puts us right where we want to be,” Khodorkovsky said. “Ultimately our goal is to finish in first and get a good seed in the playoffs and this is a step in the right direction.”

Updated 11:48 am, January 16, 2019
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