GREENSBORO, N.C. – The UNCG men’s soccer team deserved to come home victorious Saturday night and junior midfielder Leeroy Maguraushe (Milton Keynes, England) made it so as he converted a penalty kick in the 106th minute of action to give the Spartans a pivotal 2-1 double overtime win over Mercer on Homecoming night at the UNCG Soccer Stadium in front of a crowd of 2,705 fans.
The victory capped with ETSU’s 1-1 tie at Furman moves the Spartans in to a tie for first place in the Southern Conference standings. UNCG owns a 5-2-1 league record, good for 16 points while ETSU is sitting at 16 points with a 4-0-4 mark in league play with two games remaining in the regular season. The Spartans will host VMI in their final home game of the season Tuesday before ending the regular season at Furman next Saturday night while the Bucs travel to Mercer and host Wofford to end the year.
Saturday night’s game lived up to its billing with all of the drama of a late-season clash between two of the top teams in the conference. The Spartans out-shot Mercer 21-10 in the victory, including a 12-5 edge in the second half and a 4-1 margin in the first overtime period. UNCG dominated play in its end with a 10-1 edge in corner kicks but needed to rally from an early deficit and needed extra time to secure the victory.
The Spartans got the game-winning goal in the 106th minute of play. The Spartans had a long throw-in from Austin Matthews (New Kent, Va./West Point) that Mercer had a chance to clear but freshman Nelson Oceano (Berlin, Germany) picked the pocket of the Bear defender and dropped the ball off to Maguraushe. He ripped a shot from 15-yards towards goal but it struck a Mercer defender squarely in the hands for a handball and the automatic penalty kick.
Maguraushe stepped up to the spot and calmly beat Mercer goalkeeper Jeremy Booth low and to the right for the game-winning goal sending the team and fans into delirium. The double overtime win marked the second time this season that UNCG has defeated Mercer in the second overtime.
The game that ended in thrilling fashion had many thrilling moments and big plays throughout. Mercer (5-7-4, 3-3-2 SoCon) came out of the gate quickly, scoring the game’s first goal just 8:03 into the game. Leonel Toledo Jr. sent a through ball behind the Spartan defense and Roberto Arteaga beat junior goalkeeper Jon Milligan (Mount Pleasant, S.C./Wando) for the early 1-0 lead on the Bears’ first shot of the game.
Junior midfielder Matteo Busio (Greensboro, N.C./Western Guilford) had the Spartans’ best chance in the first half in the 20th minute. Busio ripped a shot from the top of the 18-yard box on goal but Booth was able to push it over the cross bar.
The Spartans turned up the pressure in the second half, out-shooting Mercer 12-5 in the period. In the 60th minute, the Spartans had a prime chance off a corner kick as Oceano found space from 15-yards out and fired a shot through traffic that beat Booth but a Mercer defender was there on the goal line to keep the bears in the lead. Mercer responded on the break and Toledo Jr. got behind the defense on a break but Milligan came up with a big save to keep it a one-goal contest.
The Spartans tied the game in the 64th minute of play as their relentless pressure finally broke the Bears. Sophomore Faisal Almubaslat (Greensboro, N.C./ Northern Guilford) made a long run down the left-hand side and sent a ball through the box. Matthews was able to beat a Mercer defender to the ball and fire it back across the six-yard box where sophomore Casey Penland (High Point, N.C./High Point Christian) got on the end and rammed it into the back of the net past Booth for his second goal of the season, tying the game at 1-1.
Oceano came within inches of giving the Spartans the lead in the 72nd minute as his shot from 18-yards out beat Booth but struck the cross bar. Will Bagrou, the leading scorer in the SoCon, had a strong chance in the 81st minute from 20-yards out but his bending shot sailed just high over the cross bar.
Oceano had another strong chance in the 103rd minute of play but his shot from close range was smothered by Booth. Milligan gave the Spartans the chance to win just second before the game-winning penalty kick as Kobe Perez was set up by Bagrou and was free from 12-yards out but Milligan made the save of the game to secure the victory. Milligan finished with seven saves in the win while Booth posted nine saves in the loss.
-- UNCG --