Lynchburg, Va. – The Liberty Flames pushed the unbeaten Buffalo Bulls into overtime with a goal late in regulation, before being edged 2-1 on a penalty kick, Sunday afternoon at Osborne Stadium.
Liberty drops to 3-2 on the season. Buffalo, who received votes in the national polls this week, remains unbeaten at 6-0. It was the first time this season that either team had a match go to overtime.
Trailing 1-0 in the 89th minute, a Buffalo foul near the right sideline resulted in a Liberty free kick. Taking the kick, forward Kevin Mendoza bent a left-footed strike toward the near goalpost. Unmarked in front, fellow forward Tresor Mbuyu headed the ball past the Buffalo goalkeeper at 88:24, tying the game at 1-1.
The Liberty midfielder’s third goal of the year was the first allowed by the Bulls during their first six games, this season. Buffalo had not given up a score during the first 538:24 of match play to open 2016.
A shot by Buffalo’s Rikard Lindqvist in the closing seconds went wide, sending the game to overtime. Late in the first overtime, a Liberty foul in the 18-yard box gave the Bulls a penalty kick. Forward Russell Cicerone, the NCAA’s leading goal scorer, converted the kick for his eighth goal of the year and gave Buffalo a 2-1 victory at 98:20.
Liberty goalkeeper James Knoebel recorded a career-high eight saves in the contest and stopped an early penalty shot by Cicerone in the first half of regulation. Buffalo goalkeeper Joseph Kuta made six saves in the game.
Buffalo held a 15-14 edge in shots and had an 11-7 advantage in corner kicks in the match.
Visiting Buffalo scored its lone goal of regulation early in the first half. Pressing the attack early, the Bulls drew two corner kicks during the first three minutes, scoring on the second. From the left side of the field, Lindqvist bent the second corner kick into the top, right corner of the net for a 1-0 edge just 2:43 into the contest.
However, that was all that Knoebel and Liberty allowed during regulation. During the first half, Knoebel stopped a penalty kick by Cicerone during the 37th minute and in the second half knocked down a header off a corner kick and corralled it to keep the Flames within striking distance.
During the first half, Liberty was able to put pressure on the Buffalo net, controlling play during the middle part of the period. Mendoza and midfielder Alan Arellano both had shot attempts turned away by Kuta, while midfielder Kyle Carr had the final shot of the 16-minute span go wide.
After a shot by Bulls midfielder Branden Scales hit the post during the 56th minute, Kuta’s diving deflection of a shot off the foot of Flames forward Martin Agredo held the visitors’ lead at 1-0 during the 62nd minute.
In search of the equalizer, Carr ripped a shot from 30 yards out during the 64th minute, hitting crossbar and midfielder Kurt Meyers’ shot attempt needed to be cleared out of the goal box by a Bulls defender, when it got behind Kuta.
Liberty next hosts the American Eagles, currently ranked No. 20 nationally, Friday at Osborne Stadium. Match time is scheduled for 7 p.m.