NORTHRIDGE, Calif. –
Despite a furious second-half charge in which they recorded nine shots on goal and hit the post once, the Cal State Northridge Matadors (5-5-1, 2-1-0 Big West) fell to the No. 7 UC Irvine Anteaters (11-2-0, 3-1-0 Big West), 2-0, on Saturday night at Anteater Stadium in Irvine, Calif.
The Matadors had a chance to go up early in the match as forward Brian Behrad put a header on goal in the fifth minute of action, but it was saved by UC Irvine goalkeeper Andrew Fontein. Northridge had two other opportunities at goal in the first half, but a shot by senior midfielder Rafael Garcia was saved in the 26th minute and the rebound effort by midfielder Chris Smith went wide of the mark.
The Anteaters dictated the offensive pace of the first half, holding the edge in both shots (7-3) and shots on goal (3-2). Northridge goalkeeper Michael Abalos recorded three saves in the first half to keep the match scoreless at halftime.
Northridge came out strong as the second-half whistle restarted play and recorded three shots on goal in the first 10 minutes. Fontein made saves on all three tries to keep the Matadors off the scoreboard.
Despite controlling the momentum in the opening moments of the second half, a bit of misfortune for the Matadors in the 58th minute led to the Anteaters scoring the match's first goal. UC Irvine's Miguel Ibarra sent a cross into the box that deflected off of a Northridge defender and into the net for an own goal.
The score ended the Matadors' streak of minutes without conceding a goal at 327, a span of just over three and a half matches dating back to the 1-0 loss against SMU on Sept. 23.
Trailing by one goal, Northridge increased the intensity of its offensive attack, trying shots from all parts of the pitch as defender Joe Franco, forward Thomas Ramos and midfielder Yarden Azulay each recorded a shot on goal in the next 15 minutes.
Abalos made saves in the 73rd and 75th minutes to keep the margin at one and was also saved by the goal post on a rebound attempt by UC Irvine's Cameron Iwasa.
The most promising Northridge efforts in the second half came started in the 77th minute on a corner kick by Garcia. The ball was crossed into the zone and was headed by Ramos but saved by Fontein yet again.
Then, two minutes later, Northridge forward Edwin Rivas' shot was saved and the ball came back out to Ramos, whose follow-up got by the goalkeeper but hit the post. The Matadors would go on to get a shot on goal by Smith a few minutes later but he, too, was stopped by Fontein. The 11 shots on goal by the Matadors were one short of the season-high set against Canisius on Aug. 26.
With just over two minutes to go in the match, Garcia lined up for a corner kick for the Matadors. The ball was cleared out by the Anteaters and a cross by Victor Calderon was deflected by a defender into the goal post before Ibarra cleaned up the ball for a goal to extend the lead and put the final score at 2-0.
Northridge now sits in second place in the conference standings with six points and have the opportunity to tie UC Irvine in the table when the Matadors take on Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo on Tuesday, Oct. 11 at 7 p.m.
The next home match for Northridge will take place on Saturday, Oct. 15 against UC Davis at 7 p.m. and will be Breast Cancer Awareness Night. All fans wearing pink to Matador Soccer Field will receive free admission.