Algonquin came roaring out of the gate to beat Centennial 5-0 at home on Saturday afternoon.
Malek Belhaj and Federico Leal both potted a pair each to fuel the win. It was the Thunder’s seventh victory a row after dropping the first two games of the season.
“After the losses at the beginning of the year, guys started to realize just because you put on the shirt doesn’t mean you’re gonna get results,” said head coach Mike Gagliano of the winning streak. “You have to dig deeper, and we’ve been working on it for a bit to try to get us back to where we need to be. We had a pretty big turnover from last year so to get on the same page, it’s just something that takes a bit more time. It’s started to come now, and hopefully we peak at the right time.”
Saturday’s win all started with Leal scoring a beauty on a long free kick two minutes into the match.
The Thunder (7-2-0) kept the pressure on, controlling possession and adding two more markers before the 23rd minute. Belhaj, the team’s leading scorer, potted his first of the game, and Leal added his second on a highlight reel play-streaking past the flat-footed defender and chipping it over a sliding Colts goalie.
The fast start was “really important for us, because it set the tone for the game,” said Leal. “We didn’t give them a chance to get ahead. To score in the first minute or two, we set our pace, and it was crucial for us.”
From there, Centennial (5-3-0) began to find their game, splitting possession with the Thunder in the last 15 minutes of the half. Although Centennial didn’t manage a shot in that time, they were able to force the play in Algonquin’s end. The intensity ramped up too, with each team receiving a yellow card before the half was out.
In the added time before the whistle sounded to end the first, Belhaj found the twine again, scoring his second of the afternoon to put Algonquin up 4-0.
To begin the second half, the Thunder held an 8-0 shot advantage, but the Colts came out stronger, forcing Algonquin to surrender two corner kicks within the first five minutes.
Algonquin responded to the pressure, and put the game completely out of reach in the 73rd minute when Ahmad Olleik powered it past the Colts keeper to notch his first goal of the season.
The Thunder made multiple substitutions to round out the game, and came away with a convincing win. The final shot tally was 9-5 in favour of Algonquin.
The Thunder wrap up their regular season Sunday afternoon against Seneca.
Looking ahead, Gagliano stressed, “The goal is always to win nationals. We have a group that can do it, and we just have to work together.”