Unbelievable, sensational and heart pounding all describe UConn’s (9-0-0) thrilling 1-0 double overtime win in the 109th minute over the visiting Yale Bulldogs (4-4-1)Tuesday evening in Storrs. In the middle of a mad scramble in front of the Bulldog net Huskie defenseman Nikardo Blake found the ball and kept the #1 ranked Huskies (NSCAA, Soccer America) undefeated and sent the UConn fans home very happy after one of the most exciting games in recent UConn history. Blake described the last frenetic minutes, “I think there was a shot and the ball got deflected from the corner. So, I went up for the ball in the air and I fell and when I was on the ground I saw the ball spinning right there. I had to get up and get it. It was just waiting for me right there and I just had to go get it.”
UConn was playing without injured junior mid-fielder Carlos Alvarez (2 Goals, 7 Pts – Leg injury), but it looked like UConn would put away the Bulldogs early , as the Huskies dominated the first half with time of possession and shots (10-2), but had to settle for a scoreless tie after one. Stephane Diop tried to pick up the slack in the first half for the injured Alvarez with a great look four minutes into the contest only to have his shot sail over the top of the cross-bar. Four minutes later Diop’s bullet penalty kick rifled off the left post before being cleared by a Bulldog defender. On trying to pick up the slack Diop said, “Yes. That’s true. Carlos is a great player and he contributes a lot to the success of the team, so, I had to step up, since he couldn’t play.”
Despite being badly outplayed in the first Yale almost took the lead on a corner kick when a loose ball was cleared by Nikardo just as the ball was heading into the net. It was not the first time UConn had outplayed an opponent in the first 45 only to be looking at a tie at the half. UConn coach Ray Reid commented on missing Alvarez and summed up the game. “I’m happy. The guys battled hard and were resilient and were very fatigued. We were fatigued coming into the game after nine games in four weeks. Wasn’t what we planned but the guys worked hard and we won it in overtime. Carlos missing and it’s been a lot of heavy lifting for the last month.”
In the second Yale turned the momentum and looked like they were on the verge of the upset win. UConn looked ragged and out sync as Yale appeared to be the aggressor in the second 45 out-shooting the Huskies 7-5, only to have regulation end in a scoreless tie, sending the game into the first of two sudden death 10 minute overtimes.
In the first OT, UConn looked to end the game with a flurry of shots that just missed the mark or resulted in great saves by Bulldog goalie Bobby Thalman as the clock was winding down. Despite a 5-0 shot advantage in the first overtime period and ample scoring opportunities, UConn was denied again and had to pin their hopes on the second and final overtime.
In the second overtime, the Huskies again came out on fire, but as the minutes were winding down, it looked like UConn would have to settle for a disappointing tie before Blake’s heroics gave UConn the win with 1:01 showing on the game clock.
The Huskies out-shot the Bulldogs 25-9 including a 5-0 advantage in the second overtime.
The Huskies travel to Louisville to face the #8 (NSCAA) ranked Cardinals Saturday evening.