Laird's Golden Goal Stretches Soccer Win Streak to Three

By Jacob Most and Brent Ingram
Sept. 16, 2014

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LEXINGTON, Ky. -- Senior Justin Laird's golden goal in the 95th minute lifted the Kentucky men's soccer team to its third consecutive win, toppling Xavier with a 1-0 result, on a pleasant Tuesday night at the Wendell & Vickie Bell Complex.

Kentucky (4-2) battled Xavier in a scoreless tilt until Laird struck for his second goal of the year and his first game-winning tally since a golden goal in the 2013 Conference USA Tournament Semifinals.

UK gained possession at midfield, where Napo Matsoso controlled the ball around the circle, finding Bryan Celis deeper on the attacking end. Celis flipped it to Laird, who dribbled for about 10 yards, before cutting back left and curling a left-footed strike from inside the box.

UK keeper Callum Irving posted his fourth shutout of the year and the 11th clean sheet of his three-year career, saving three shots. The reigning C-USA Defensive Player of the Week and a first-team All-Conference USA selection, Irving now ranks sixth in UK career history in shutouts.

"Bryan Celis, the man, played me a (great) ball right in the midfield,"  Laird said. "I took a look across and I just saw that I had one defender to go and I was like `let's do this, let's do right now.'
"It felt amazing. You can watch on the replay the celebration. It is an indescribable moment. When you just have everyone screaming and the whole team jumping on your back, dogpiling you, it's one of the best moments that I will ever have in my life."

Irving and the Wildcats have now not allowed a goal in the last 304 minutes over the last four games. UK has allowed only two goals on the year, a 1-0 loss to No. 17 Indiana - the 2012 NCAA Champions - and a goal at Wright State in the season lidlifter.

The Wildcats have now won three consecutive games, starting with a 1-0 win over No. 1 Notre Dame on Sept. 8. UK then posted a 2-0 win over East Tennessee State, before the golden-goal win over Xavier on Tuesday night.

"Last season we didn't have any more than two wins in-a-row at any point so to be able to get over that hump against the three teams we just played and to win three-straight I think is huge for us. With a team as young as we have we talk a lot about belief, mentality and feeling like you belong on the field. To win these games going back to Notre Dame, ETSU and now Xavier is huge.

"It's just another measuring stick of our progress that we were able to beat a team like Xavier today. It was a great, physical college game with lots of flying tackles, fouls and headers, but in the end you have to be able to match whatever the referee allows and I thought we did a good job of that."
The win for UK improves its record against Xavier all-time to 8-5 and marked its first win over XU in Lexington since 1994.

Xavier (3-3) keeper Vince Shaw finished with one save in 95 minutes. XU owned a 9-6 advantage in shots and a 7-5 mark in corner kicks.

The Wildcats will return to action on Friday, hosting Furman at The Bell, with kickoff slated for 7 p.m. ET. The match will be broadcast on SEC Network+ with Neil Price on the call.