NORTHRIDGE, Calif. -
Goalkeeper Michael Abalos made six saves and the Cal State Northridge defense held tight for 110 minutes as the Matadors (7-7-2, 3-3-1 Big West) played the No. 9 UC Irvine Anteaters (13-4-1, 5-2-1 Big West) to a scoreless draw on Wednesday night at Matador Soccer Field. The draw gives the Matadors 10 points on the season and sole possession of the Big West Conference's final playoff spot with three matches to play.
The match looked to be in the Anteaters' favor in the first half, as UC Irvine took seven shots compared to Northridge's three. Abalos, however, was able to make three saves in the period to keep the Anteaters off the board and the match level going into halftime.
In the 15th minute of play, Christian Hernandez took a free kick from roughly 20 yards out for UC Irvine that was blocked by a wall of defenders. The loose ball eventually found the head of Everett Pitts following a cross into the box, but his try was saved without much danger.
In the 24th minute, UC Irvine's Christopher Santana made a long run up the right side of the field and shot the ball toward the left of the net but Abalos again was there to keep it from going any further.
In the 40th minute, the Matadors recorded their first shot on goal when midfielder Carlos Benavides skipped a ball along the ground from the top left of the box. Anteater goalkeeper Andrew Fontein was able to keep the ball from trickling past on the wet surface as cold air and moisture took over the climate midway through the first half.
Both teams came out strong to start the second half, eager to maintain possession and set up chances in front of goal. In the 47th minute, Hernandez had a shot from a few yards out in the right side of the box that Abalos was able to put a stop to. Minutes later, an overzealous challenge by Northridge forward Edwin Rivas led to a yellow card, the match's only caution.
A promising chance for UC Irvine in the 52nd minute nearly resulted in the evening's first goal, but Abalos made a diving save to keep the score even. Santana made a long run up the left side and shot a ball that was blocked by a CSUN defender. The rebound found Miguel Ibarra unmarked and he ripped a shot to Abalos' right but a diving save ended the play.
Shots by Northridge's Rene Anguiano in the 58th minute and Thomas Ramos in the 62nd missed the mark for the Matadors as well. Northridge nearly had a goal in the 83rd minute when Ramos dribbled the ball into the box and fired off a left-footed shot that missed just wide of the net.
Northridge forward Brian Behrad took both shots in the first overtime period, a header that was blocked in the 93rd minute and a shot from the left side that missed the goal by a foot or so in the 99th.
The Anteaters took a corner kick in the second overtime period but nothing materialized from it and Anguiano fired off a hopeful shot from 25 yards that sailed well left with a minute to play as the teams ended the night in a draw.
Overall, the Matadors outshot the Anteaters (17-16), took more corner kicks (7-5), and recorded more saves (6-2). The shutout for Abalos marked his 17th career victory and his 13th clean sheet at Northridge.
The Matadors return to action on Saturday, Oct. 29 against the Cal Poly Mustangs (6-7-2, 3-4-0 Big West) at Matador Soccer Field. Kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m.