Celis' Strike Gives UK 1-0 win at No. 21 UAB
By Jacob Most
Oct. 8, 2014 -
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – A 56th-minute goal from Bryan Celis gave the Kentucky men’s soccer team a much-needed 1-0 win at Conference USA foe and 21st-ranked UAB on a muggy Wednesday evening at West Campus Field.
The win was UK’s first C-USA win of the season and the Wildcats remained unbeaten in league play having drawn Old Dominion and Florida Atlantic in its two previous matches. UK improved to 5-3-3 (1-0-2 C-USA) on the season, while UAB dropped to 6-4-1 (1-1 C-USA).
Kentucky also picked up its first win from its last five games, as the Wildcats were 0-1-3 since defeating Xavier in overtime on Sept. 16.
“A lot of credit to UAB, they made things really difficult for us at time,” UK head coach Johan Cedergren said. “For me and for the staff and players it was just so nice to get a win. It’s been a while. I thought we played really well against ODU and even in the games before that, but we were unable to get win. Today we played really well.
“I was actually disappointed going in at halftime not being up a goal. UAB changed their formation at halftime, which caused us some problems for five, ten minutes in the second half, but we rallied. In the end we scored a goal from Bryan Celis and then the last 10-15 minutes we had to hang on when they threw a lot of bodies forward.”
Bryan Celis broke the deadlock on 56 minutes with a moment of individual brilliance. He collected the ball in midfield off a pass from the flank, dribbled to the top of the box where he created space for himself and hit a marvelous right-footed strike curling away from the keeper into the right upper-90.
The goal was Celis’ second of the year as he also scored UK’s lone-goal vs. then-No. 8 Louisville.
Goalkeeper Callum Irving earned his seventh shutout of the year as UK has not allowed a goal in any of its five wins this year. He saved five shots, but was never seriously troubled by a shot that found the target.
The Wildcats faced some nervy moments late as UAB threw numbers forward in search of the equalizer. Nonethless the Wildcats hung on for their second win of the year over a ranked opponent, with the other a 1-0 win at then-No. 1 Notre Dame. UK also drew then No. 18 Furman at home last month.
Both teams struggled to string together long spells of possession throughout the opening 45 minutes.
UK's best chance rattled off the post in the 15th minute as Bryan Celis started a break with most of UAB's players up in the UK box for a corner kick. The ball found its way to Napo Matsoso along the left flank, and he pinpointed a cross to Justin Laird, but the senior striker's attempt to slot it home with his left foot went off the left upright and out for a goalkick.
Each of the Wildcats' best chances of the first half came on counter attacks after UAB pushed numbers forward.
On 35 minutes Laird threatened goal again, once more on the counterattack. His attempt at a right-footed curler three yards outside the box went just a bit high however.
SETTING THE STAGE
UK head coach Johan Cedergren made one change from the starting lineup that drew 1-1 with Old Dominion last Friday. The third-year coach said after the game that his lineup produced the best half of technical soccer during his tenure in the opening 45 minutes vs. ODU.
The one change was Stefan Stojkovic, who replaced fellow-freshman Andrew McKelvey on the right wing.
Wednesday's match was billed as a showdown between the conference's top statistical defense (UK) against its No. 2 offense (UAB) in terms of goals per game.
The UK defense, with Callum Irving in goal and a first-choice back-4 of Reymann, Kaelon Fox, Jordan Wilson and Matt Quick, entered the match allowing under a half a goal per game (0.47), which also ranked No. 7 in the country.
The Wildcats came into the match having allowed five goals all year, and with six clean sheets from 10 games UK ranked ninth nationally in shutout percentage.
For its part, UAB ranks second in C-USA with a goals per game average just under 2 (1.80) as the Blazers had scored a total of 18 goals in 10 outings.
Kentucky (4-3-3, 0-0-2 C-USA) came into the game undefeated in league play this year, but looking to get its first win in four matches. UK had drawn Florida Atlantic and Old Dominion in its last two outings following a 2-1 loss to No. 8 UofL and a scoreless draw with No. 24 Furman.
UAB (6-3-1, 1-0-0) was coming off a 1-0 loss on the road to Akron last Saturday, but one its only C-USA match, 3-2 vs. FIU.
UAB also entered the match in a three-way tie for third place in the conference on three points, while UK sits was in sixth position alone with two points from two games.
Kentucky and UAB came in 5-5 all-time in the head-to-head. The Wildcats have a 3-2 advantage in Birmingham, while the Blazers are 3-2 in Lexington.
UAB edged UK 2-1 last year with two first half goals, before UK got back a late consolation.
Senior striker Justin Laird started as UK's lone striker, having emerged at the head of the UK attack in recent weeks, as he scored his team-leading third goal of the season last Friday against ODU. Laird is the only Wildcat with multiple goals this year, as the UK offense has been balanced. Five of Laird's teammates have one goal apiece.