NORTHRIDGE, Calif. -
Carlos Benavides assisted on three goals and Christian Gonzalez Diaz scored once and added an assist of his own as the Cal State Northridge Matadors (5-4-1, 2-0-0) rolled to a 3-0 victory over the #19 Cal State Fullerton Titans (6-2-2, 0-1-0) on Saturday night at Matador Soccer Field. The win, accompanied by a loss by UC Riverside, puts the Matadors in sole possession of first place in the Big West Conference after one week of competition.
Facing a tough opponent after defeating UC Davis in the conference opener on Wednesday, the Matadors stormed out of the gates to take control of the match pace, favoring a style of waves of offense coupled with trapping defense. Northridge was the clear aggressor in the first half on offense, firing off 14 shots compared to six for the Titans.
The Matadors were able to break onto the scoreboard first in the 35th minute as Benavides sent a through ball into the right corner of the box to Gonzalez Diaz, who crossed the ball to Yarden Azulay. Azulay, making a run from the left of the pitch, took a shot that skipped off a defender and into the bottom right corner of the goal for his third score of the season.
Just over four minutes later, the Matadors were celebrating another goal as Benavides set things in motion a second time. Working from the left side of the box, he passed the ball to Chris Smith, whose cross found Gonzalez Diaz on the right side. The freshman then smacked a low shot back across the goal and into the lower left corner for his second goal of the year.
Northridge took a 2-0 lead into halftime as goalkeeper Michael Abalos made three saves in the first 45 minutes to blank Fullerton.
The Matadors increased the intensity to begin the second half and the match got noticeably more physical. After forward Edwin Rivas chased down a ball in the box and was whistled for a foul, he and Titan defender Bobby Reiss were shown a yellow card following their getting tangled up in the 50th minute..
Yellow cards were also shown to Fullerton's Jonathan Birt (66th minute) and Northridge's Chris Smith (76th minute) for challenges on the ball. During this time, the Matadors were able to keep possession of the ball and dictate the result of the match. As a result, only one of Fullerton's eight shots in the half was on goal and it was a rocket right at Abalos.
The Matadors were able to keep control of the match and added a final goal to seal the night in the 81st minute as Benavides yet again earned an assist. After a long run up the left side of the field, he left the ball to defender Yuval Barak, who crossed it to Rivas in front of the net. Rivas was able to get a foot to the ball and Titan goalkeeper Trevor Whiddon could only watch as it went into the goal.
Cal State Fullerton midfielder Kevin Venegas was issued a caution in the 79th minute for dissent and was subsequently sent off for a challenge from behind in the 82nd.
Northridge played out the final minutes of the match for their third consecutive 3-0 victory. The Matadors have held opponents scoreless for 270 straight minutes, a stretch of three matches.
Abalos needed just four saves in net to earn his 11th career shutout, a figure that is good for third all-time at CSUN. His four clean sheets this season are one away from cracking the top ten for a single season.
Northridge as a team has now scored nine goals over the last three matches, accomplishing that feat for the first time since Sept. 26 - Oct. 6, 2010 (Two wins, one loss). The Matadors will travel to UC Irvine to take on the Anteaters in a conference match on Saturday, Oct. 8 at 7 p.m.