A PK Goal From MacKinnon Carries Wildcats Past Connecticut 1-0

09 Dec 2021 | 11:11 | Football

STORRS, Conn. – A penalty kick goal in the 104th minute by Lyam MacKinnon carried Villanova past Connecticut 1-0 in double overtime. The win was Villanova’s fourth straight 1-0 decision in BIG EAST action and gives the Wildcats their best BIG EAST regular season start in program history (8-2 overall, 4-0 BIG EAST).

Sophomore Akinjide Awujo drew the foul that led to the penalty kick and goalkeeper Carson Williams made several tremendous saves as Nova posted its fourth consecutive clean sheet.

“Carson was phenomenal, and our back line really held together well,” stated Villanova head coach Tom Carlin. “It was kind of an end-to-end game and we defended well in space. I thought both teams were tired in the second overtime and it kind of became a battle of attrition.

“UConn’s a good team and they played well. But we were resilient and got the result.”

Williams had to be on point from the opening whistle. He made a diving stop to his right in the third minute and then came up with a brilliant diving stop of a Husky header re-directed from a set piece in the sixth minute to keep the contest level through the first 10 minutes.

UConn applied a steady amount of pressure as the first period moved on. Villanova’s defense kept the Huskies at bay and the ‘Cats earned a terrific counter attack opportunity when junior Lyam MacKinnon forced a UConn turnover and pushed forward with the ball. His low shot was saved by the Huskies Jamhali Waite.

With just under two minutes left in the first half Villanova’s leader in minutes played, midfielder Josh Belluz exited the game. Dylan Middlebrook came on to replace him and Belluz did not return.

“Josh is an important guy for us and when he goes out that leaves a big hole to fill,” said Carlin. “It’s nice to be able to bring on a senior in Dylan who has played a lot of good minutes for us. He did a good job of filling that void.”

At halftime, the contest was level at zero.

UConn held a 6-4 edge in shots. All four of Villanova’s shots were on frame. Williams made three first half saves for the Wildcats, who also had the half’s only two corner kick opportunities.

The Huskies applied substantial pressure in the first 10 minutes of the second period but the Wildcats’ were solid. Awujo generated a dangerous chance for Villanova in the 68th minute that sailed just outside the right post. A few minutes later sophomore Luke Pompliano was in behind the Husky backline with the ball. His low shot was knocked down by Waite’s right foot.

The match remained tied at zero.

Seidu Shamsudeen draw a foul 45 yards from the Huskies goal and the clock stopped with seven seconds to play in the second half. But a free kick from Dominic Cyriacks was knocked away by the Huskies and that sent Nova to overtime for the second time in the fall 2021 campaign (Nova downed Temple 2-1 in double overtime on Sept. 11).

After a quiet first overtime period the night’s pivotal moment occurred in the 104th minute. Awujo got the inside position with the ball on a UConn defender 15 yards in front of goal and was taken down. The play was whistled as a penalty kick. Junior Lyam MacKinnon converted the opportunity, sending a shot into the top shelf of the net on the right side.

“Akinjide did a good job of working hard to establish position there,” noted Carlin. “It looked like he had an open net to shoot to when he went down.”

Williams finished the night with five saves in goal.

“This group has been on the wrong end of some results over the last 2-3 years, and we have always stressed that the important thing was to keep progressing,” Carlin stated. “They kept working.

“The approach now isn’t any different. We want to keep progressing. 4-0 is nice but we still have six league games to play. There is a lot of soccer left.”

The Wildcats were headed to the bus following this match to return to campus to begin preparations for Saturday’s home battle against the Red Storm (1 p.m./BIG EAST Digital Network presented by Flo Sports). Villanova will celebrate its Alumni Day as part of the festivities.

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