PORTLAND – It being the Portland High boys’ soccer Senior Night, Fazal Nabi and his 13 classmates figured they needed to make their game against rival South Portland memorable.

“I wanted to give everything I had,” said Nabi. “This is something I’ve been looking forward to since my freshman year. We talked about how we had to go all out. And that’s what we did.”

Nabi scored two stunning goals in the first half and later added an assist as Portland won its 10th consecutive game, a 4-1 decision Thursday night at Fitzpatrick Stadium.

The third-ranked Bulldogs (11-1-1) played an outstanding defensive game, limiting the Riots to few opportunities.

“That’s been our mantra all season,” said Rocco Frenzilli, Portland’s veteran coach. “We like to think we’re a good defensive team. Feliks (Cobanovic) and his gang are strong back there. And our rotation’s been very good, which is a key. You’ve got to get around the back and make sure everything is covered.”

Portland was especially impressive in the second half, limiting South Portland to two shots. Down 2-0 at halftime, the seventh-ranked Riots (9-3-1) had an early flurry — which didn’t produce a shot — but didn’t test Portland goalkeeper Taylor Mannix again until the score was 3-0.

The first half belonged to Nabi. He scored on Portland’s first shot on Riots keeper Shawn Shannon just 5:05 into the game, then scored on the Bulldogs’ second shot 4:28 later.

On the first goal, he collected the ball at midfield, spun away from two defenders — somehow maintaining his dribble — then blistered a low shot from 35 yards just inside the right post.

On the second goal, he was stationed at the top of the box as the ball ricocheted to him. He didn’t hesitate, using his left foot to kick it on a bounce past Shannon, again just inside the right post.

“He’s an impressive player,” said Frenzilli. “What can I say? The thing is, the kid has worked his tail off to get to where he is.”

Cobanovic said Nabi’s early goals gave the Bulldogs momentum they didn’t lose.

“It’s a great feeling,” he said. “(Nabi) sets the whole pace of the game and we keep building on it.”

Nabi said the Bulldogs approach the first 15 minutes of any game as vital. They need to set the tone in that time.

“I was just lucky to get some scoring chances and make them,” he said.

Well, it’s not entirely that easy.

“They played a very good game,” said Riots Coach Peter Hoy. “And Fazal is a fantastic player. I told my kids they can’t worry just about him, that he’s surrounded by some pretty good players.”

The Bulldogs showed that in the second half.

Paley Burlin got the pivotal third goal, assisted by Nabi and Tim Rovnak.

Nabi carried the ball on the right and crossed it in front. Rovnak slid and deflected the ball back to an open Burlin, 10 feet in front of the net.

“If they had cut it to 2-1, it would have been a game,” said Frenzilli. “When we made it 3-0, I felt a whole lot better about our chances.”

Alan Tuyishime scored from Tony Yekah with 4:10 remaining. Dillon Leary got the Riots’ goal with just over three minutes remaining.

 

Staff Writer Mike Lowe can be contacted at 791-6422 or at:

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