BIRMINGHAM, Ala. - UAB senior forward Kofi Gyawu had a goal and an assist to lead the No. 20 UAB men's soccer team past Mercer, 2-1, in the 2012 season opener for both teams at West Campus Field.
Freshman forward Ian Svantesson, playing in his first career contest, collected the game-winning goal, as the Blazers captured a victory in their home opener for a third consecutive year.
"I thought we played well," UAB head coach Mike Getman said. "We scored two great goals in the first half and controlled the run of play. They scored a terrific goal early in the second half. We played well for most of the match and got the season started on a positive note."
After several near-scoring chances, the Blazers finally broke through at the 32:28 mark when the UAB co-captains connected to score the first goal of the season. Senior defender Reed Matte began the attack by bringing the ball up the right side and sending a long cross to the middle of the 18-yard box. Kofi Gyawu then rose above the defense and slammed a header over the top of the Mercer goalkeeper for the 1-0 lead.
Just over three minutes later, Svantesson scored his first career UAB goal off an assist from Gyawu. The play began from a throw in along the right side of the field. Gyawu took the ball and dribbled to the far corner. He then sent a low cross into the box, which Svantesson back-heeled into the far side for a two-goal lead.
"It feels good to get this win and be a contributor," Gyawu said. "Last year, I was injured a lot and to come back this season and start the year off with a win, it feels good."
Mercer would not go away quietly; however, cutting the Blazer lead in half at the 47:03 mark, just over two minutes after intermission. The Bears goal came off a corner kick by Joey Heavner, which was deflected into the top right corner of the net off the head of Will Betts, which trimmed the Blazers' lead to 2-1.
Both teams had several terrific chances to score. However, the Blazer defense wouldn't bend, due in large part to the play for senior defender Mladen Lemez and junior goalkeeper Raphael Ville. Ville ended the contest with five saves en route to the victory, while the UAB backline, led by Lemez, stifled every potential Mercer scoring threat.
UAB doubled-up Mercer in total shots, 20-10, but only had a 7-6 shots-on-goal advantage. Gyawu led all players with five attempts, while Svantesson and Chase Wickham each recorded three shots.
The Blazers will return to action on Sunday afternoon when they host the Georgia Southern Eagles at 3 p.m. at West Campus Field. UAB students can eat a free meal courtesy of Full Moon BBQ beginning at 2 p.m.
"Sunday's game against Georgia Southern will be a really tough challenge," Getman said. "We have to turn around and play 48 hours after this game against a team that hasn't played a match yet. They will be fresh and we'll be a little tired, but at the same time we have a game under our belt, so hopefully we'll be ready."