No. 20 CSUN Clinches Playoff Berth, Tops UC Irvine 2-1
IRVINE, Calif. –
Armando Gutierrez scored his first goal of the season and second of his career to lead the Cal State Northridge Matadors (11-5-0, 5-2-0 Big West) to a 2-1 win over the UC Irvine Anteaters (4-11-1, 1-6-0) on Saturday night at Anteater Stadium. With the victory, the Matadors extended their lead in the Big West Conference South Division and clinched a berth in the Big West Tournament for the first time since 2009.
Gutierrez scored in the 80th minute after a set piece from the left side. Chris Smith's cross into the six-yard box was headed by Trevor Morley to the feet of Gutierrez, who buried it into the net for the eventual game winner.
The Matadors held a 1-0 lead at halftime thanks to a goal by Sagi Lev-Ari in the 10th minute of play. Yarden Azulay ran up the left side of the field and sent in a cross that was headed by Lev-Ari past goalkeeper Michael Breslin. The goal for Lev-Ari was his second of the week and conference leading 12th of the year.
The Anteaters were able to tie the match in the second half after drawing a foul inside the penalty area. Tarek Morad converted from the spot by placing a shot into the lower right corner of the goal to even the score at one apiece in the 60th minute.
With the prospect of overtime looming and a crucial three points on the line, the Matadors pressed forward looking for the winner. After a foul was awarded in the offensive third for Northridge, Smith jumpstarted the offense to set up Gutierrez's goal.
Northridge goalkeeper Michael Abalos went untested in the match except for the penalty kick and made no saves. With the win, Abalos ranks fourth in CSUN history with 26 and second with 67 matches in goal.
The Matadors now lead the Big West South Division with 15 points. Cal State Fullerton sits second with seven, UC Riverside is third with six and UC Irvine is fourth with three. With nine points left in play and UC Riverside still to face Cal State Fullerton, the Matadors have clinched at least second place in the division.
Cal State Northridge returns to action on Saturday, Oct. 27 at UC Riverside. Kickoff at UCR Soccer Complex is scheduled for 7 p.m.