After an early lead the CSUN men’s soccer team was unable to come away with conference points on Wednesday night, losing 2-1 against the top team in the Big West, No. 8 UC Irvine.
In what was supposed to be a game that UC Irvine (11-1-2, 4-0-1) was expected to dominate from start to finish, the game’s deciding goal came with controversy in the 81st minute of play.
After a questionable cross, which could have been called offsides, Anteater points leader forward Amani Walker scored the game-winning strike.
The Matadors (2-10-1, 1-4-1), however, were not ready to place the blame on anybody but themselves.
“It’s a very hard job being a linesmen and I don’t blame the refs,” head coach Terry Davila said. “It was a very competitive game, they had some of the game and we had some of the game.”
Team captain Joe Franco also shared Davila’s sentiments about the officiating.
“It goes both ways,” Franco said. “We had some calls that went our way and they had some calls that went their way.”
For the Matadors this is the fourth consecutive match in which they were unable to gain any points in the Big West standings.
“It’s tough,” Franco said. “We’ve worked so hard all season and we feel like we’re so close. We’re missing it by inches but that’s the game of soccer.”
The first goal of the match came off a corner kick in the 30th minute of play off the head of freshman Alberto Rosas.
Team captain Rafael Garcia lobed a ball from the right corner to the middle of the goal box when Rosas beat his man and blasted the shot past the Anteater goalie.
The goal was Rosa’s second of the season and gave the Matadors a crucial lead in a first half, where they were outshot 10-3 by the No. 8 team in the nation.
The corner kick came after forward Mattias Bonvehi almost had a goal of his own from just outside the goal box. Blazing past the heart of the Anteater defense Bonvehi drilled a shot that was just saved in the last minute by Irvine goalie Andrew Fontain.
The Anteaters eventually equalized in the 59th minute of play off a set piece of their own thanks to a header by midfielder Corey Attaway off a corner kick by midfielder Bello Alhassan.
In a battle of David and Goliath, offensive powerhouse Irvine was held scoreless in the first period and although they managed to get off ten shots against the Matadors, few were quality looks.
Anteater scoring leader and shot leader Walker was held without a shot in the first half as the Matadors neutralized the stars ample scoring abilities.
The best scoring opportunity for the Anteaters came with just over a minute left in the first half. In what was another play dangerously close to an offsides forward Christopher Santana sent a shot flying over the goalie Michael Abalos.
The Matadors next game will be against one of the toughest teams to beat on the road, when they take on UC Santa Barbara on Saturday night.
However, CSUN is optimistic of the challenge.
“I think we showed we can hold our own against the big boys,” Rosas said. “We’re not backing down from anybody. We just played the eighth best team in the nation and I didn’t see anything in them.”