Scoreless through the first half, the Wildcats finally got on the scoreboard in the 54th minute when Brock Lindow booted in a goal off an assist by Daniel Evans.
It ramped up the intensity as ETSU’s Luke Howson nearly tied the match in the 59th minute with a thunderous boot from the right side — but Kentucky goalkeeper Enrique Facusse made the save. Less than two minutes later, a header by Bucs’ Hauk Andreas Fossen went over the crossbar.
As Kentucky tried to extend its lead on the other end, ETSU goalkeeper Josh Perryman won a 1-on-1 battle to get the save. The Bucs (3-4) battled to the end with two corner kicks in the final four minutes. In the defensive struggle, Kentucky held a slight 8-7 advantage in shots and it ended up an even 5-5 in corner kicks.
“We were close. They’re a good side, but it was an even game,” ETSU coach David Casper said. “If we could have put one way, I think it goes a different way. I’m proud of our effort how we gave it our all. We were strong late; we just have to be a little stronger earlier in the game.”
The No. 19 Wildcats, who play in Conference USA in soccer, improved to 5-1-2. ETSU fell to 3-4-2 and is now 2-2 in matches against Kentucky in Johnson City.
Kentucky coach Johan Cedergren, who led the Wildcats to the Elite Eight a year ago, had praise for ETSU and its fans.
“Coach Casper and the coaches before him have done a really good job,” Cedergren said. “It’s a fantastic facility with a great atmosphere and a fun place to play. I’ve been at Kentucky eight years and we’ve played ETSU eight times. Every year, it’s a tough game.”
He also talked about Lindow’s winning goal where he dribbled in the box and booted the ball past the defender.
“We’re happy with the result. We’ve got some special players and we ask them to do special things,” Cedergren said. “They’re really good defensively and caused us a lot of problems. The goal that Brock scored, that’s special.”
Lindow and Marcel Meinzer each had two shots to lead the Wildcats.
ETSU’s shot attempts were distributed amongst seven different players — Joe Pickering, Simon Chreitian, Bruno Andrade, Luke Parker, Josh Salinas, Andreas Fossen and Howson. They turned it into the physical, defensive struggle their coach wanted. He just wanted to see more aggressiveness in the opening half.
“I thought we gave them too much respect early, but we grew into it and were able to get more aggressive,” Casper said. “They’re an athletic team, a good team and that’s why they’re ranked. But we showed that if we play well and play aggressive, we can play with anybody in the country.”