The No. 1 Georgetown men’s soccer team kicked off Big East play last Saturday with a nail-biting 2-1 victory over a scrappy Creighton squad, thanks to a clutch go-ahead goal by sophomore forward Marlon Tabora in the 90th minute.
A record 6,577 fans filled the seats in Morrison Stadium in Omaha, Neb., on Sept. 18 to watch the Georgetown Hoyas (6-0-0, 1-0-0 Big East) and Creighton Bluejays (1-3-1, 0-1-0 Big East) clash in Creighton’s annual Socctoberfest event. It was the largest crowd at a college soccer game in the country this season.
The Omaha crowd wasn’t alone in its excitement. Georgetown Head Coach Brian Wiese also had high expectations leading up to the match.
“This should be a good advertisement for college soccer,” Wiese said in a pregame press conference.
A scoreless first half featured a plethora of missed opportunities for both teams. A Creighton corner kick arced across the pitch, only to be intercepted by the Hoyas’ senior goalkeeper Giannis Nikopolidis, who then collided hard with the opposing attacker. Nikopolidis had three impressive saves in the match, including an acrobatic block to his lower left in the eighth minute.
The Bluejays kept pressure on the steady Hoya defense. Fans jeered as Creighton forward Diego Gutierrez juked a Georgetown defender, but then a pack of gray jerseys rotated to stifle the attack. Later on, a Bluejay cross led to a point-blank shot from forward Manu Toledano, which sailed high over the Hoya goalpost.
In the second half, both sides picked up the pace of play. Three minutes in, a Creighton defender turned the ball over, leading to a Hoya offensive advantage. Capitalizing on the sloppy play, junior forward Stefan Stojanovic ripped the ball into the lower left corner of the net, putting Georgetown up 1-0.
The Creighton squad became more aggressive to try to tie up the game. The team’s most notable effort came in the 61st minute, when a long strike from defender Miguel Ventura rimmed off the right goalpost. If the ball had been six inches to the left, this effort would have been the equalizer.
The sweltering humidity of the Nebraska night must have seeped onto the pitch because as the match progressed, tempers began to boil. Creighton’s Callum Watson received a yellow card for protesting what he thought was a missed foul call. Soon after, the Bluejay sideline was up in arms after a controversial call by referees. Video replays indicate that there was contact on the play, which would have given Creighton a penalty kick. Creighton Head Coach Johnny Torres repeatedly pointed to the other side of the field, reminding the officials of two earlier plays where the Bluejays felt they were fouled, yet the referees had swallowed their whistles.
However, the Bluejays got their penalty kick opportunity minutes later as Georgetown junior defender Daniel Wu slide tackled a Creighton attackman in the penalty box. Creighton selected reigning Big East Offensive Player of the Year Diego Gutierrez for the penalty kick. Gutierrez launched the ball through the top left corner to tie the game at 1.
The last 10 minutes of the game appeared to be a stalemate, with fans anticipating overtime play until Georgetown’s Tabora stole the ball from a Creighton defender. He passed it to the right, dumping the ball off to sophomore midfielder John Franks, whose shot on goal was deflected by the Creighton goalie.
But with 56 seconds left, the rebound went directly back to Tabora, who rocketed the ball to the back of the net, saving the day for the Hoyas. The image of the night was Tabora sprinting in celebration to the right corner flag, jubilant teammates cheering in pursuit.
Georgetown closed the game with a memorable 2-1 victory. Creighton arguably put up the toughest fight against the undefeated Hoyas this season, who secured a 6-0-0 record.
Georgetown looks to continue its undefeated streak against Dartmouth (0-3-0) on Saturday, Sept. 25 at home. The match is set to begin at 1 p.m.