Talk about an effective counter-punch.
Michael Calderon netted a penalty kick with seven seconds left in regulation to help the University of New Mexico men’s soccer team pull out a wild 4-3 victory over No. 10 UAB on Wednesday night.
The winning goal was set up by a bizarre sequence in which Blazers goalkeeper Raphael Ville picked up a red card for leveling UNM’s Chris Wehan with a shot to the chest. Few in attendance at chilly UNM Soccer Stadium saw the foul because the ball was in play near midfield at the time.
Wehan had gone down in the goal area previously and was getting up when Ville approached him.
“He was yelling at me,” Wehan said, “I think he was cursing in French. I turned around and he hit me in the chest. I didn’t see it coming.”
Fortunately for the Lobos, one of the linesmen did see the foul. He huddled with the other game officials, a penalty kick was awarded, and Calderon blasted it past Joe Kuzminsky, who took over in goal after Ville was ejected.
“Their goalkeeper, who was fantastic tonight, made the biggest mistake of his career,” Lobos coach Jeremy Fishbein said. “A red card for a foul off the ball. What can you say?”
Bizarre ending aside, the victory seemed a measure of justice for UNM (9-4-2, 5-1-1 Conference USA). The Lobos outshot the Blazers 19-4, dominated possession and simply looked like the better team most of the night.
The exception was a five-minute span in the first half, when the opportunistic Blazers (11-3-1, 4-2-1) took three of their shots and grabbed a 2-0 lead. Freddy Ruiz scored on his team’s first shot of the match (in the 22nd minute), and Alex Clay converted a Lobo turnover into a goal less than two minutes later.
“Yeah, we gave up some soft goals,” UNM’s Riley McGovern said, “and when you’re still sitting at zero, you need something to get your energy up.”
McGovern delivered, converting on a low shot across the goal box on a feed from Niko Hansen in the 40th minute. McGovern returned the favor just 1:18 later, setting up Hansen for an easy goal with a pinpoint pass across the box.
The score was 2-2 at halftime.
“When we were down 2-0, I felt like if we could draw one back before halftime we’d be good,” Fishbein said, “because we were better than (the Blazers). When we got two to draw even, I felt great.”
UNM kept up the pressure in the second half and finally took a 3-2 lead on a Ben McKendry goal in the 81st minute.
But UAB’s only shot of the second half, a high blast by Clay just over the hands of Lobo goalie Michael Lisch, re-tied the match with 1:45 remaining.
“That was a fantastic goal,” Fishbein said.
Just about the time overtime started to seem certain, Ville’s burst of temper opened the door for the Lobos. Ville had been in the middle of several scuffles during the match and was the target of derisive chants by UNM students standing behind UAB’s goal.
“I haven’t played in a game quite like that,” McGovern said, “with such a freakish ending. It’s definitely a big win for us, though.”
UNM visits Conference USA-leading Old Dominion (9-3-1, 6-1-0) on Saturday with a chance to move into first place. The Lobos then conclude the regular-season at home against Kentucky on Nov. 9.