Second-Half Goals Put End To Winning Ways (Men’s Soccer)

By Ben LarrisonThe Daily Northwestern

Numbers can be deceiving.

Just ask Penn State, who entered Sunday’s contest with Northwestern at three games under .500 but was still a threat to steal a road victory. Better yet, ask the No. 14 Wildcats (7-2, 1-1 Big Ten), who outshot the Nittany Lions 24-12 but wound up with a 2-1 loss.

Penn State (3-5-1, 2-0 Big Ten) held off the Cats with two second-half goals in Big Ten action in Evanston.

The first 10 minutes of play were packed with action on both ends. Penn State just missed on an early corner, and NU had four good scoring chances in the game’s first 20 minutes, but neither team could connect. From there, the Cats dominated possession, but despite the blitz, NU was unable to finish and the teams entered the half knotted in a scoreless tie.

“We had them on the ropes,” senior Daniel Chille said. “We were completely dominating. We had all the play in their half, and we just couldn’t find the back of the net.”

Things stayed close to the same as the second half began. The Cats were in control offensively and frequently on the verge of scoring. Taylor made a diving save to keep NU off the board in the 52nd minute. But with one breakaway, the Nittany Lions stole the momentum .

Senior Simon Omekanda sped past the Cats defense and one-touched a pass across the box to freshman Frank Costigliola, who beat NU keeper Will Briley to give Penn State a 1-0 lead. The Nittany Lions took advantage of the aggressive Cats, who’s midfielders snuck up with NU’s attack on the goal, and were rewarded with a quick goal on the other end.

NU responded to the goal with another push. Taylor made the save on a touch from freshman Eamon O’Neill shortly after the score. The Cats then were denied on two chances in the 64th minute, just after senior Gerardo Alvarez left with a minor injury to his left foot. NU tried to change up its rotation, putting in senior Brad North at forward and replacing Briley with hard-kicking senior Justin Pines.

But it was Penn State who seized the game with a breakaway goal in the 81st minute. Senior Markku Viitanen found sophomore Barkley Miller alone in front of the Cats net, and Miller put it past Pines for a 2-0 lead.

“The second goal (happened because) we made some tactical changes that we probably weren’t ready for in order to try and get the goal, when we probably should have just stayed in the system we were,” NU coach Tim Lenahan said.

The Cats finally found the back of the net in the 89th minute, when North took a pass from freshman Mark Blades in front of the goal and nailed it into the upper left corner to make it 2-1. The score reenergized the NU bench and made for an exciting final minute and a half, but two Penn State clears later, the Nittany Lions had the victory.

“They were packing it in, playing counter-attack soccer,” North said. “I’ll give it to them, they finished their chances, (and) we didn’t finish ours. I felt like we were the better team, we just didn’t finish.”

Reach Ben Larrison at [email protected]