INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – The Cleveland State University men's soccer team scored in the final minute of regulation to complete a comeback and claim a 2-1 win at IUPUI in each side's Horizon League opener Saturday evening at a clear Michael A. Carroll Stadium.
The Vikings collected the full three points on the road to get the League season off to a good start, but CSU did it the hard way.
The Jaguars, playing their first-ever Horizon League match, got off to a dream start as they utilized the game's first foul, near midfield, to find the net in the game's opening 90 seconds. The subsequent free kick was played into the box and headed home to give the hosts the lead.
CSU possessed the ball regularly as the first half progressed but was unable to generate many top-notch chances. The Vikings had six corner kicks in the opening 45 minutes but did not convert on any of the attempts. Junior Noah Pio struck a shot in the 21st minute that was hit well but not placed far enough away from the keeper.
Meanwhile, IUPUI had a few more decent chances in the opening frame, largely from set pieces. Sophomore Sebastian Kalk was called into action twice within a three minute span as he saved a pair of free kicks with leaping efforts to parlay both shots into touch, saves that would loom larger once the match concluded.
Cleveland State opened the second half with a higher level of play as it possessed with an attacking mentality. Junior Gianluca DiFranco had a free kick in the 51st minute go slightly wide of the keeper's left post.
CSU evened the match in the 54th minute when an alert senior followed up an initial shot. Senior Hesham Hammouda took a shot from outside the area that was blocked, but IUPUI's clearance was intercepted by an onrushing Thomas Bielanski.
Bielanski then blasted a shot from outside the box. His shot was saved, but captain Alec Nagucki was there to pounce on the rebound and slot it home.
After tying the match, CSU seemed to gain energy and began to consistently got good looks at goal.
Sophomore Gabriel Pewu had a good chance on a header off a corner kick in the 59th minute go slightly wide. In the 65th minute, Hammouda blasted from distance and the keeper was forced to tip over the bar. DiFranco had a fine look with a low shot taken from near the corner of the box, but the goaltender was able to make a diving save to his left in the 77th minute.
With each team searching for a winner, end-to-end action increased. In the 80th minute, junior Antonio Burgoa played a great long ball to Pewu, but the keeper was able to get out and stuff the shot.
The Jaguars nearly used another set piece to retake the lead in the 82nd minute. A header taken off a corner was on target, but true freshman Thomas M'Barek headed it away from danger, potentially saving a goal. The Vikings immediately played forward to DiFranco, and he nearly got in on the goalie 1v1, but the last defender was able to stick with the junior and play out for a corner.
With overtime looking like a likely possibility, the Vikings were able to get a winner very late on in regulation.
Redshirt junior Madifing Conde intercepted a Jaguar player trying to dribble forward in the final minute and drew subsequent contact to earn a CSU free kick just inside the attacking half. Classmate Brent Nanchoff then play a left-footed ball into the box, and a Jaguar player had the ball skim off the top of his head and into the back of the net.
Nagucki, a defensive midfielder, found the net for the first time since his freshman year while Bielanski's assist was the first of his career.
Cleveland State had advantages in shots, 19-12, and corner kicks, 13-6.
CSU concludes its five match road trip this coming Tuesday, Sept. 12, as it faces BIG EAST side Xavier.