For NU, one goal will do

Katherine Driessen

After Northwestern’s scrappy 1-0 win over Missouri State on Sunday, coach Tim Lenahan promised his team he would never complain about a win again.

NU’s performance, which puts the team at .500, was efficient, if not elegant.

“It wasn’t a great win, but it was an important one,” Lenahan said. “But we got the job done, which is what we needed at this point.”

NU (4-4-1) was clearly the stronger team, out-shooting Missouri State (3-5-1) 14-8 and controlling possession for much of the game.

Fresh off his go-ahead goal in NU’s eventual draw with Notre Dame last Wednesday, senior forward Matt Eliason looked lethal in the opening half. True to his workman-like mentality up front, NU’s all-time leading goal scorer fired off five shots, three of which were on goal.

But the Cats would have to wait until the second half for their offensive pressure to finally break down a stonewalled defensive performance by the Bears.

In the 57th minute, junior forward Oliver Kupe caused some serious trouble for Missouri State’s back line when he forced a turnover at the top of the goal box. Kupe deftly dodged a pair of defenders before unleashing a well-placed shot in the back corner of the net to give NU the lead.

The goal was Kupe’s fourth of the season, which leads the team.

“It was sort of a grinded-out goal,” Kupe said. “But at this point, we will take a goal and win however we can. It felt great to score that one because of that.”

The Cats went on the defensive during the last 10 minutes of the game. The Bears attacked with numbers to try to secure an equalizer, posting four of their eight total shots during that period. A bicycle kick from Missouri State’s Paul Paradise nearly handed NU its second draw in as many games.

“Those last 15 minutes, they really came at us and had some scoring opportunities that I think we shouldn’t have given them,” Lenahan said.

But junior keeper Drew Kotler proved up to the task and recorded his third shutout of the season.

“The danger when you are the better team, which I think we clearly were, is that sometimes you can get too comfortable out there,” senior midfielder Piero Bellizzi said. “The play was a bit stagnant out there for us, and against a better team that will not work. But it was a win, and we can move on now and face the rest of the season with a .500 record.”

Missouri State marked the first match of NU’s five-game homestand. The Cats will face tougher competition in the next few games, including No. 19 Ohio State, who just defeated No. 11 Michigan State. The Spartans took down the Cats 2-0 on Sept. 26 in East Lansing.

Next up for NU is Chicago area rival DePaul on Wednesday night. The Blue Demons (3-5-2) beat NU 2-1 in their previous matchup last season, though the Cats lead the all-time series 13-7-1.

“In the first few games, we were all just sort of getting to know each other on the field,” Bellizzi said. “Now you can tell we are playing for each other, and that’s a real turning point.”

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