Last-Gasp Goal by USC Knocks UK Out Of C-USA Tourney

By Jacob Most at the ODU Soccer Complex
Nov. 12, 2014

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NORFOLK, Va. – South Carolina’s Koty Millard scored with 11 seconds on the clock to give South Carolina a 2-1 win over 18th-ranked Kentucky in the Conference USA Tournament quarterfinals on Wednesday at the Old Dominion University Soccer Complex.
   
Millard got on the end of pass by Mahamoudou Kaba  into a last-minute scrum inside the UK box, finding the back of the net and handing the Wildcats their fifth loss of the season to go along with 10 wins and four draws.

The result could easily have been reversed just seconds earlier, as a burst of pace put Ryan Creel in on goal at 10 yards out with just under a minute remaining in the 90, but his shot was right at the goalkeeper.

The Wildcats were left to rue multiple missed opportunities just 25 seconds later. Kentucky had plenty of chances to go ahead in the final 30 minutes of play, but they were unable to find that clinical touch and put the ball across the goal-line.

Among the closest calls was a Stefan Stojkovic shot from the top of the box in the 58th minute as he was played a square ball from Bryan Celis after he linked up nicely along the right side with Noah Hutchins, who was seeing his first significant action of the season. Stojkovic’s shot beat the Gamecock goalkeeper, but hit the post and went out for a corner.

"First of all you have to give credit to South Carolina and Coach Berson because they played a really good game," UK head coach Johan Cedergren said. "They gave us all they had, and they won a good college game ... For us it's one of those where you don't want to make excuses, but with multiple guys missing from the starting lineup and other guys in the 11 hobbling around at maybe 60 percent - with all that being said I couldn't be more prouder of the guys.

"I thought we played really well, we were really good in the first half. We had a couple of chances off corners we should have put in, and Stefan hit the post in the second half before they scored. I thought we did more than enough to get a result today, but part of what makes this game so much fun is you never know until the game is over. You have to take your chances and do a really good job defending. For us those two goals (that UK conceded), we are gonna look at them, and I think we have to do better."

Kentucky fielded a makeshift starting 11 with regular starter Justin Laird sidelined due to a knock on his knee, and stalwart midfielders Napo Matsoso and Paul Sime suspended due to yellow card accumulation.

Kristoffer Tollefsen gave Kentucky a lead to take into halftime, converting a 31st-minute penalty after Ryan Creel was brought down inside the area.

The goal was Tollefsen’s third of the season. He coolly sent South Carolina goalkeeper Marco Velez guessing the wrong way, hammering a left-footed strike into the right side netting.

UK was granted the spot kick after Ryan Creel was brought down on the left side of the penalty box, spinning his defender on the left flank and dribbling into the box, where he was fouled.

South Carolina tied it up six minutes into the second half, taking advantage of a defensive miscue by Kentucky. Target-man Kaba was ruthless with his finish after finding himself 1v1 with Irving after receiving a miskicked clearance.

With the loss, UK dropped to 10-5-4 on the year. UK dropped two straight games for the first time this season.

South Carolina improved to 9-9-0, and tied the 2014 season-series with UK at 1-1 as UK defeated USC 4-3 in double-overtime in Columbia, South Carolina last month.
  
South Carolina now leads the all-time series 6-5-2.

FIRST HALF
That UK’s goal came off a move that started from the flank was no surprise given the action from the early-going. UK scored all four of its goals against South Carolina in late October from attacks down the right side and UK looked to build from wide early on.

It took a lovely play from Creel and a composed penalty from Tollefsen, but UK went ahead, 1-0, on 31 minutes.

South Carolina’s best chance came less than a minute later, as the Gamecocks caught the Wildcats on the break. Mikkel Knudsen found himself 1v1 with UK goalkeeper Callum Irving with the latter player getting the better of the exchange. Irving caught the shot from 16 yards out while diving to his left.

Kentucky missed a sparkling chance in the 21st minute off a corner. The ball pinged in the box, and fell to Stefan Stojkovic, whose shot was barely stopped by the outstretched arm of USC goalie Marco Velez. Freshman forward Andrew McKelvey got onto the rebound on the 6-yard box, but he hit it over the bar.

SETTING THE STAGE
The 18th-ranked Kentucky men’s soccer team began the 2014 Conference USA Tournament against South Carolina on Wednesday at the Old Dominion University Soccer Complex.

UK head coach Johan Cedergren made three changes from the side that lost 2-1 to No. 4 Charlotte in a result that decided the C-USA Regular Season title last Friday.

Stefan Stojkovic moved from the right wing to the point of attack, and he was replaced on the wing by fellow-freshman Andrew McKelvey. Kevin Barajas took up a place as a holding midfielder alongside third-team All-Conference USA selection Kristoffer Tollefsen.

Kentucky entered as the No. 2-seed in the tournament, while South Carolina was seeded seventh. Fourth-ranked Charlotte was the top seed.

The winner of the game was set to face the winner of the UAB-Marshall match in the semifinals on Friday at 4:30 p.m.

Kentucky finished the regular season with a record of W10 L4 D4 (5-1-2 C-USA). South Carolina entered 8-9-0 (3-5-0 C-USA).

The Wildcats defeated the Gamecocks in a 4-3 wild double-overtime thriller in Columbia, South Carolina on Oct. 24.

Ryan Creel scored with one minute remaining in the second OT to win it for UK after the Wildcats surrendered a three-goal lead in the final 30 minutes, while playing with a one man advantage.
  
UK and South Carolina entered Wednesday tied in the all-time series – known as the Southeastern Conference Men’s Soccer Championship – at 5-5-2.

UK concluded the regular season on a run of 6-1-3 in its last 10 games. UK finished second in Conference USA, with a record of 5-1-2. The one loss came at the hands of RPI No. 3 Charlotte by a 2-1 margin.

Kentucky entered Wednesday's match coming off its first loss since Sept. 23, last Friday, 2-1 against an elite Charlotte team.

The Wildcats had reached the C-USA Tournament semifinal each of the past two years.