Emmett Keenan scored two first-half goals to lead the St. Albert Impact Rangers to a 4-0 win over Palermo FC Wednesday evening at Riel Park.
The win puts the former premier division team at 2-1 on the season and on track to achieving its ultimate goal: a return to the top tier where it’s been a fixture for many years.
“We’re trying to make a point this year, nothing less than premier,” Keenan said. “We want to be back up where we should be.”
It was the team’s second lopsided win of the summer season, coming after a 6-0 season opening win. Unfortunately, the two wins are wrapped around a 3-2 loss to Sherwood Park Rangers Karpaty.
Against Palermo the Rangers applied heavy pressure in the first half, repeatedly sending balls through for striker Keenan to track down and fire.
Keenan finally converted at the 20-minute mark, poking the ball past the last defender and galloping free on goal all the way from midfield.
Palermo keeper Nick Perri moved to the top of his box to challenge the charging Keenan, who deked wide before carrying the ball to the gaping goal.
“I usually shoot it too early and I have a tendency to kick it over the net so I decided to take it all the way,” said Keenan, 24.
About six minutes later, Keenan pounced on a ball through the middle after a turnover in the Palermo end, booting a low shot past Perri.
“I kind of thought it was offside but then I saw the defender beside me … just plowed through and put it in the back of the net,” Keenan said.
From there the Rangers held the bulk of the territorial play, though Palermo came close on a couple of chances. One close range shot appeared to be going under the bar but Rangers keeper Ryan Austin sent it over with an outstretched arm.
Then, in the dying seconds of the first half, Palermo nearly converted a long-range free kick sent into the six-yard box.
“It went off a guy’s head and hit the bottom of the post,” Austin said. “That was a mental lapse on my part. The defence thought I was coming and I didn’t make the approach.”
St. Albert held the territorial advantage throughout the second half, rounding out the scoring with two more goals. Irish import Mark Ervine converted a penalty kick after being taken down hard and Alan Morgan scored off a shot from the wing that went in off a defender.
“We played fairly well,” said Rangers coach Jason Rota. “We controlled most of the game, passed very well, got into the open spaces.”
The win puts the team in second place in the men’s 1A division. Keenan and Ervine are now tied for the division goal scoring lead with three each.
The Rangers’ next game is this Wednesday against first place Croatia (2-0). Kickoff is 8:15 p.m. at Coronation Park.
Another former St. Albert premier team playing in division one won its second straight Wednesday, beating Western Villa 4-0 in Edmonton.
After losing its season-opener at home, the St. Albert Impact now sit in second place in division 1B with a 2-1 record.
The Impact returns to action Wednesday against top-ranked DFCA (2-0). Kickoff is 7 p.m. at the Edmonton Soccer Association.