A late goal in the 84th minute by host Gardner-Webb broke a 1-1 tie, leading the Runnin’ Bulldogs to a 3-1 win over the Liberty Flames in a Big South men's soccer contest, Saturday afternoon, at Greene-Harbison Field.
Liberty falls to 1-2 in Big South Conference play and 6-3 overall. The Flames have now lost back-to-back game for the first time this season. Gardner-Webb evens its record at 2-2 in conference action and 5-6-2 overall.
Host Gardner-Webb jumped on the scoreboard quickly, striking for the match’s first goal during the first minute of play. Forward Denzel Clarke worked free for an attempt from six yards out on the right side, which was knocked away by Liberty goalkeeper Josh Pacella. However, the ball came loose to Runnin’ Bulldog Eric Asanin-Miroux at the top right corner of the 18-yard box and he scored into the open left side of the net. The midfielder’s first goal of the season gave the host team a 1-0 advantage 46 seconds into the contest.
Liberty tied the match in the 18th minute. Off a free kick on the left side of the field, midfielder Juan F. Niño lined a pass toward the near post, which forward Travis Joseph headed into the top of the net at 17:23. The junior’s fourth goal of the year knotted the contest at 1-1.
After their goal, the Flames held possession on their half on their half of the field for the rest of the opening 45 minutes of play. During the span, Liberty fired five unanswered shots. Niño may have had the best chance of the five during the 41st minute, dropping a shot into the center of the penalty area, forcing Gardner-Webb goalkeeper Scott Krotee to come off his goal line to make the stop.
In the first half, shots were even, with each squad taking seven apiece. The Flames held the advantage in corner kicks, 7-0.
The second half opened with Liberty forward Darren Amoo coming free one-on-one with Krotee for a shot during the 52nd minute. On a Gardner-Webb corner kick, midfielder Phillip Aseweh pounced on the loose ball and pushed the ball forward, leading Amoo with a pass. The senior forward ripped a shot in stride, which Krotee was able to get a hand on and block away. Amoo followed his shot and tipped the rebound toward the net, but the Runnin’ Bulldog keeper was able to corral the attempt.
Two minutes later, midfielder Alex Verville launched a shot from the left side post from six-yards out, only to see Krotee knock down the liner and corralled the rebound.
During the 55th minute, host Gardner-Webb pressed the Liberty net off a free kick. An attempt by midfielder John Sargent was blocked by a Liberty defender, while Pacella made a diving save of a shot of the rebound by Richie Wall. The ball roll free to Clarke at the top of the box, but the final shot of the Runnin’ Bulldog flurry sailed wide.
During the 80th minute, defender Sam Duininck was able to gain the right side of the 18-yard box, forcing a Gardner-Webb defender to dump the ball out of bounds for a corner kick. On the ensuing kick, defender Greg White slipped a pass into the center of the box, which went off several feet and was cleared by the Bulldogs.
After being held without a shot on its first corner kick in the 83rd minute, Gardner-Webb broke the tie on a corner kick in the 84th minute. Sargent lifted a pass toward the far post from the top right corner of the box, which Clark headed into the net for his second goal of the season and a 2-1 lead.
In the 89th minute, an own goal by the Flames produced the final margin of 3-1.
Shots were even in the tightly contested match, 14-14. Corners kicks were also even at eight apiece.
Pacella recorded three saves for Liberty, while Krotee made six saves for Gardner-Webb.
The Flames will travel to Spartanburg, S.C., for their final nonconference game of the season, Tuesday night. Liberty will face the Wofford Terriers. Match time is scheduled for 6 p.m.