UK men’s soccer keeps rolling, this time against UAB

Mohammad Ahmad

After three straight road games, the Wildcats returned home to The Bell under the Friday night lights as they defeated the University of Alabama at Birmingham Blazers 1-0.

The hero of the game was Mikkel Pedersen who scored the winning goal in the 85th minute. This was Pedersen’s second goal on the year after scoring his first at the Bluegrass Battle at Louisville.

Once the game started at The Bell, the Wildcats wasted no time getting to business. Senior Andrew McKelvey tried to get the Cats going on offense as he had two scoring attempts by the 6th minute. Senior Noah Hutchins also tried to make some moves of his own in the first half. In the 22nd minute, he missed a high volley from 25 yards out. Sophomore Connor Probert later assisted him in the 29th minute for what was a near goal after missing a wide shot from the left side.

Defensively, the Cats held the Blazers to an overall standstill. Early in the first half, Senior UK captain Landon Sauder jumped in to intercept and kick out a UAB pass near the right side of the 6-foot mark. His fellow defender Leon Jones would make the same integral play later in the 29th minute. UK midfielder Kevin Barajas showed some defensive intensity as he created several defensive interruptions near midfield. This was all capped off by goalkeeper Enrique Facusse’s valuable 24th minute save.

This is not to say, however, that the Blazers did not have their own mishaps. Blazers forward Massimo Ferrin missed a high volley while matched against Leon Jones in the 19th. The team also missed a penalty kick in the 29th minute.

Shifting gears into the second half, the intensity was apparent on both ends. In the 58th minute, McKelvey had many Cats’ fans excited when he just nearly missed a header tipped by Blazers keeper James Teal. Souder tried to supplement that with a header of his own in the 65th that went wide.

UAB was not showing any signs of surrender as their offense tried to pressure young Facusse. Defender Alexandrea Ricourt and forward Rami Dajani had two near scores early in the half, but Facusse served his duty. The Kentucky defensive backline was able to stop several Blazer kicks in the 75th minute. Facusse showed no signs of fatigue as he scooped three saves, one of which was a near score by Ferrin in the 88th.

After several missed UK shots toward the end of the half, the team finally took the lead. In the 85th minute, sophomore JJ Williams dished an assist from the right corner toward junior Pedersen who scored after spinning to get to the endline and serve the box.

“Our gameplan was to be patient, and it payed off towards the end so it was great for the team moving forward,” Pedersen said when asked about how he and the Cats feel about the game-winning goal.

The 4-0-1 Wildcats will face the Cincinnati Bearcats on Tuesday at The Bell at 7:30 p.m.