The 17th-ranked Kentucky men’s soccer team kept its undefeated record intact on Tuesday, knocking off Louisville 1-0 at the Bell Soccer Complex in front of a crowd of 2,863, the second-largest crowd in the three-year history of The Bell.
The Cardinals outshot the Cats 16-2 on the night, but UK made the most of its opportunities.
Noah Hutchins provided the game-winning strike with his second goal of the season in the 41st minute, and goalie Stuart Ford came up with three big saves to keep the Cards off the scoreboard.
After struggling to press the Cardinals’ defense for much of the first half, the Cats found their footing in the last 10 minutes of the period. They finally broke through when Hutchins sent a weak-side header into the upper-right corner of the net off a long range free-kick assist from Charlie Reymann.
The goal came less than a minute after Louisville’s Ricardo Oliveros drew a yellow card for a tackle that sent Hutchins down hard.
“I saw Noah break and I just tried to put (the ball) in a dangerous spot,” Reymann said. “You’ve got to give all the credit to Noah there. He did fantastic with that header. It was a great goal and to do it right before the half I think it carried us through the second half, that goal was huge for us.”
The Cats snapped a two-game losing streak to the Cardinals, improving their all-time record in the series to 11-8-4.
“We look forward to this game every year. It’s not a conference game but it might as well be,” Reymann said. “The past two years haven’t gone our way… this year we battled hard and came out with a good result. It gives us a lot of confidence going forward.”
The Cards were the aggressor early on and appeared to have the UK defense on its heels on several possessions. In the 11th minute, a corner kick from Louisville’s Danny Reynolds led to a shot by Michael DeGraffenreidt. But his header was saved by Ford.
In the 17th minute, Louisville’s Jack Gayton took a long pass appeared to be headed for an open shot on goal, but UK midfielder Hampus Agerstrom found another gear and raced ahead of the play, stealing the ball and poking it out of bounds to prevent a shot.
Things got a bit heated between UK defender Tanner Hummel and Louisville forward Mohamed Thiaw in the first half. As Thiaw dribbled near the boundary about 20 yards from the Kentucky goal, Hummel collided with him going for a steal, carrying both players out of bounds. Thiaw got in Hummel’s face and the two jawed back and forth before Ford raced out of the net and separated them. An official stopped the clock and had a brief chat with the pair before play resumed.
Kentucky’s first good look came in the 29th minute when midfielder Napo Matsoso used some deft dribbling to get past two defenders and set up a good look from about 21 yards out. But his shot went wide right, prompting some exasperated body language from the Conference USA Preseason Offensive Player of the Year. That play seemed to be the catalyst for the UK offense’s awakening.
The Cardinals whiffed on a good scoring opportunity in the 54th minute when an open shot by Cherif Dieye near the left side of the penalty box went wide.
Ford preserved UK’s advantage with two clutch second-half saves on shots from midfielder Tate Schmitt. Ford has allowed just one goal on the season, a penalty kick in UK’s 1-1 draw with Dartmouth last week.
“Stu has done great leading us back there and he’s given us a lot of confidence,” Reymann said. “Each game he’s growing, and I look forward to seeing how much better he does each game.”
KENTUCKY 1, LOUISVILLE 0
Goalkeepers—K: Ford. L: Cleveland.
Records—Kentucky 3-0-1, Louisville 2-1-1
Kentucky: 7 p.m. Saturday at Furman
Louisville: 7 p.m. Friday at Pittsburgh