NORTHRIDGE, Calif. -
The Cal State Northridge Matadors (1-1-0) found a late goal to extend the match but ultimately were defeated by the UNLV Rebels (1-1-0) 2-1 in overtime of their opening contest of the 2011 Cal State Northridge Labor Day Classic.
Both teams fought hard in the first half to gain momentum of the match, with the upper hand going to the Matadors after the first 45 minutes. Northridge recorded seven shots, two on goal, in the first half and was able to dictate the pace through the early stages.
An excellent chance developed for the Matadors in the 31st minute when a corner kick from Gustavo Villalobos found the head of defender Nicholas Hamilton. The attempt found its way past the goalkeeper but was turned away by a defender on the goal line to keep the score level at zero. Eleven minutes later, forward Edwin Rivas saw space and fired a shot off at Rebel goalkeeper Ryan Harding, who was able to close out the distance and make the save. After the first 45 minutes, Northridge allowed just two shots, both wide of the mark.
The Rebels looked like a different team coming out of the halftime break, becoming more aggressive on the ball. A shot by UNLV forward Robert Garcia was saved in the 56th minute by Northridge goalkeeper Michael Abalos, who made his first start of the season on Thursday night. The momentum appeared to be swinging in the direction of the Rebels after the shot, however, as they were able to win a free kick from 20 yards out in the 67th minute.
Rebel defender Mike Mota took the set piece, curling a ball over the Northridge wall and past a diving Abalos into the left corner of the net to break the scoreless tie. It was his and his team's first goal in 2011.
Playing down a goal with under a third of the match remaining, the Matadors continued to send balls forward in hopes of breaking free for an attempt at the net. Midfielder Chris Smith sent a corner kick into Alberto Rosas, whose header was saved in the 71st minute. Defender Joe Franco saw a shot sail just over the bar, and freshman Yarden Azulay's offering was saved by Harding as well.
Finally, Northridge was able to even the score at one apiece in the 79th minute off of a Smith corner kick. Crossing in the ball from the right side, Smith found Hamilton by the net, whose header ricocheted to Rivas. Rivas did not miss from point-blank range, scoring his first goal in a Matador uniform.
The final 10 minutes of regulation were played at a frenetic pace with six combined shots taken in hopes of ending the match, but to no avail.
In overtime, Northridge looked to be heading toward a victory as Rivas broke free of his defender and had a one-on-one chance at goal. He deked the goalkeeper to the left and fired a shot at the open net, just missing wide left.
Just under two minutes later, UNLV saw another free kick set up just outside of the box. Mota, who had the earlier goal in a similar situation, fired an attempt that was blocked by the Matadors' wall of defenders. The ensuing rebound went to Rebel midfielder Jonny Espinoza, whose shot was blasted from range into the lower right corner of the goal for the winner.
The Rebels will continue play in the Labor Day Classic as they face Cal State Fullerton this Saturday at Matador Soccer Field at 4:30 p.m. The Matadors return to action Saturday night against defending national champion Akron, which played to a draw with Cal State Fullerton earlier Thursday, 30 minutes after the end of the first match.