UK men’s soccer returns to winning ways in conference opener


Freshman goalkeeper Enrique Facusse watches from the box during the game against UAB on Friday, September 8, 2017 in Lexington, Ky. Kentucky won the match 1-0.

Mohammad Ahmad

After a grueling loss against the Cincinnati Bearcats at home last week, the No. 13 UK men’s soccer team looked to convert their first conference game into a win. The Wildcats were able to do so after defeating the University of New Mexico Lobos 1-0 in the scorching Albuquerque climate. Kentucky’s series record against the Lobos is now 4-1-1.

The hero of the game for the Cats was sophomore defender Aime Mabika. A Lexington native from Henry Clay High School, he gave Kentucky the go-ahead score on the cusp of halftime in the 44th minute off of a penalty kick. This is Mabika’s first goal in his career at UK.

When the game started, the Lobos wasted no time appeasing their loyal fans. Within the first 30 minutes, the Lobos attempted 5 shots, with 9 overall for the half. The closest thing the Lobos had to a score was a header shot by Sam Gleadle. Nonetheless, this was saved by two-time C-USA Defensive Player of the Week, goalkeeper Enrique Facusse. Senior defender Alex Bumpus complemented Facusse’s efforts by stopping a Lobos assault in the 13th minute by sliding in with a quick cut.

Unfortunately for the Wildcats, they failed to gain any real offensive momentum throughout the first half. They did not even get a shot off until Stefan Stojkovic shot the ball high from the top of the box in the 42nd minute. After three consecutive fouls by New Mexico following this shot, Kentucky’s problems ended and the Lobos’ began.

Lobos midfielder Billy Jones received a yellow card following a vicious hit a mere two seconds before halftime, much to New Mexico’s demise. As Mabika came in to kick a penalty shot, the shot sailed into the goal past goalkeeper Jason Beaulieu to give Kentucky a 1-0 lead.

As the second half was underway, Kentucky tried to unlock their offensive potential while the Lobos were angrily trying to storm back following their near-halftime miscue. Former C-USA Offensive Player of the Week Mikkel Pedersen missed a shot in the 51st minute that was saved by Beaulieu. Four minutes later, Andrew McKelvey had two consecutive misses: a shot from in the box along with a header.

JJ Williams had a shock blocked in the 62nd minute, and Pedersen tried to come back from his miss by shooting the ball wide from the goal in the 80th minute. Kentucky’s offense improved in the second half, with five shots and two corners compared to two shots and no corners in the first.

Defensively, Kentucky applied some ferocious defense against the mighty Lobos. The Lobos came in with six total shots in the half, some of which seemed to almost veer into the goal. Facusse came back and showed his player of the week defense with four saves. Facusse’s most integral save came on a shot in the box by Gleadle.

With a 3-0-1 record on the road this year, the Cats look to keep their momentum against the Xavier Musketeers at The Bell on Wednesday at 7:30 p.m.