Nickardo Blake was the hero tonight for UConn.
Sept. 27, 2011
STORRS, Conn. - It took double overtime, but the No. 1 UConn men's soccer team earned a 1-0 victory over instate foe Yale tonight at Joseph J. Morrone Stadium in Storrs. Senior back Nickardo Blake netted his first goal of the season with only 1:01 remaining to keep UConn at a perfect 9-0-0. Yale dropped to 4-4-1. Freshman keeper Andre Blake recorded five saves to extened his shutout streak to 587:45.
"At halftime and at the start of the overtime, I told them, `Be patient. Don't panic.' I give these guys credit though, it took 109 minutes, but they did it. We've played a grueling schedule. I think they were fatigued tonight. This is a tough sport. If we didn't have such good athletes, we probably don't win tonight," said head coach Ray Reid.
With just over a minute remaining, the Huskies earned a corner kick. Mamadou Doudou Diouf took a corner from the left side and found the head of Allando Matheson. Matheson's driving header was saved by a Yale defender. The rebound came 12 yards out and Blake stepped up and lifted a shot into the top right corner to the delight of over 2,200 UConn fans in attendance.
"I went up and I fell. When I was on the ground, I saw the ball. It was just sitting right there, I could just get up and get it, it was right there for me. Eventually, we had to score. We believe in ourselves and believed we weren't going to lose. Somebody else would have got it if I didn't," said Blake.
Connecticut had plenty of chances in regulation. The Huskies outshot Yale, 25-9, but missed the finishing touch through the first 108 minutes. Freshman Allando Matheson finished with nine shots, Stephane Diop recorded four, but neither was able to beat Yale goalkeeper Bobby Thalman. Thalman finished with seven saves.
The Huskies kept possession the majority of the first half but failed to connect the final pass in front of goal. Connecticut nearly opened the scoring early in the eighth minute with a free kick from Mamadou Doudou Diouf from 23 yards out that hit the left post and crossed along the goal line and away from danger.
Diop was dangerous throughout the opening 45 minutes, creating much of the action along the left flank. Diop connected passes with sophomore Juho Karppinen in the midfield during the first half and created a solid attempt on net in the 15th minute that was saved by Thalman. The resulting corner led to a long-range shot by Andrew Jean-Baptiste, but his attempt was well over the bar.
Diop saved a goal for the Huskies in the 30th minute. With Yale finally connecting passes in the UConn end, the Bulldogs earned a corner from the left side. Jenner Fox drove a ball to the top-left corner of the six yard box. Chris Dennen was able to flick the ball towards the back post destined for the back of the net but Diop did his duty on the line and cleared the ball from danger.
The Huskies finished the first half with a 10-2 edge in shots and a 5-3 edge in corner kicks.
Yale was able to generate extended spells of possession in the second half with the best chance coming in the 70th minute. After receiving a pass in the right side of the box, Brad Rose found space and ripped a shot towards net. Blake, dove to his left and made the save, keeping it scoreless.
UConn had a golden opportunity in the 77th minute but a freshman Allando Matheson failed to finish from a step inside the box.
Regulation ended with UConn ahead in shots, 15-9, and in corner kicks, 8-4.
The Huskies had three shots from in close, forcing a pair of great reflex saves from Thalman and a poor finish from Diop. After a shot from Matheson, the Yale keeper bobbled the ball on the goal line. The Huskies eventually gained possession. Diop found time at the top of the box and ripped a shot low that was saved. The rebound bounced back to Diop but he lifted a shot over well over the cross bar.
Matheson had another chance on the left side of the box a minute into the second overtime period but blasted his shot wide left.
The Huskies grinded out their first overtime victory of the season after finishing 2010 with six ties in extra time.
UConn hits the road for a crucial BIG EAST contest on Saturday when the Huskies face No. 8/9 Louisville in Louisville, Ky. The Cardinals were preseason No. 1 after losing in the NCAA Championship a year ago.