With the return of Thomas, Syracuse tames Wolfpack

Stout defense and a hat trick from Emil Ekblom sealed the blow out victory over NC State.

The Syracuse men’s soccer team concluded its four-game home stand in style with a 5-0 win over ACC rival North Carolina State Oct. 4. Emil Ekblom was the star of the show, as the freshman striker grabbed his first career hat trick for the Orange.

Skylar Thomas returned to the lineup for the first time since his short-lived debut against Notre Dame. Thomas experienced a nightmare game then, hobbling off after only 20 minutes due to an injury. This time, Thomas collected a corner from Jordan Murrell in 16th minute and scored the game’s opening goal. As head coach Ian McIntyre humorously noted, it wasn’t the most textbook finish from the center back, but an important one altogether.

“Yeah, well he’s 6’4” and he used his knee,” McIntyre said. “If I can ever teach him how to head a ball, he’s going to be unstoppable.”

A notable change in Syracuse’s setup was Oyvind Alseth, usually the right back, deputing for the second game running in central midfield. The Norwegian fullback filled in for Jusso Pasanen, who had a slight injury worry (thigh strain). Alseth adapted well to this new role, making telling contributions on both sides of the ball.

“His passing range is very good and he also gives us a bit of mobility in there,” McIntyre said. “It’s nice to have a little bit of competition in there [central midfield]. He gives us something a little bit different.”

Syracuse’s second goal came soon after the first, in the 23rd minute. Ekblom burst down the right side and flashed in a low cross to the back-post. Chris Nanco slid in to turn the ball in and doubled Syracuse’s lead. A mere two minutes later, it was a great delivery from another Murrell corner-kick that led to the third goal. Fabian Otte, the NC State goalkeeper, turned away the first attempt but could do nothing about Ekblom’s follow-up header.

The Orange controlled most of the game until the halftime whistle. Although NC State was still enjoying a great deal of possession, it lacked the cutting edge to penetrate the Orange’s solid defense. The only real attack from Wolfpack came at the 39th minute when an errant cross found its way to the back-post. Luckily, Tyler Hilliard was there to swiftly snuff out the danger. All in all, NC State didn’t manage a single shot, on or off target, in the entire first half.

In the opening minutes of the second half, Syracuse pressed a little higher. At the 51st minute mark, Nanco beat his man down the left and angled in a cross. Alex Halis came to meet the ball but shot right at the goalkeeper. Otte had however spilled Halis’ shot, and it Ekblom once again picked up the pieces and scored. Syracuse now led 4-0.

NC State’s best chance came from defender, Moss Jackson-Atogi, at the 55th minute. Alex Bono misjudged a deep cross that sailed over his head and onto Jackson-Atogi’s head. The chance went awry, as the defender ballooned his effort harmlessly above the crossbar.

The Orange capped off a tremendous evening as Alseth bursts through midfield to slip in Ekblom. The striker curled in a one-time effort that nestled into the bottom corner, sealing his hat trick.

Syracuse dominated and controlled the game from start to finish against NC State. Offensively, the Orange made its opportunities count whenever they came around. Defensively, Syracuse was solid and barely gave the opposition a sniff of the goal. Ekblom was the highlight of the game of course, and McIntyre found Ekblom particularly effective and full of confidence on the night.

“He took his goals very well; the third one was a quality finish,” McIntyre said. “I think his mom is going home tomorrow, so it was a good time for him to score those goals.”

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