UC Santa Barbara completed an undefeated run through the Big West South Division and secured its second four-game unbeaten streak of the season with a commanding 2-1 victory over visiting Cal State Northridge on Saturday night at Harder Stadium.
Sophomore right back Dalton Pando opened the scoring for UCSB in the seventh minute before junior forward Ahinga Selemani made it 2-0 in the 20th.
CSUN (5-5-2, 2-1-1) took advantage of a bad clearance to grab an opportunistic goal just before halftime, but UCSB (7-5-1, 3-0-1) put the clamps down in the second half to preserve the result.
Even though the Gauchos only won by a single goal, the game was more lopsided than the scoreboard would indicate evident by UCSB’s 16-5 edge in shots for the contest. The majority of the game was played in CSUN’s defensive half of the field as UCSB enjoyed the advantage in possession and prevented the Matadors from getting in rhythm when they were on the ball.
“This was pretty exciting win for our team tonight,” said UCSB head coach Tim Vom Steeg. “I thought we played a very good first half and put a lot of good things together. We gave them a goal back on a weird play which gave them life, but I was pleased with how we played defensively in the second half. It was one of our best all-around performances of the season.”
UCSB was especially dangerous in the first 20 minutes, creating a number of opportunities including both of the team’s goals.
The Gauchos first cracked the scoresheet in the seventh minute. After forcing a turnover deep in CSUN territory, freshman forward Noah Billingsley found himself alone to the left of the box. With plenty of time, he picked out Dalton Pando’s run to the back post, serving it over CSUN’s defense where Pando was able to get his right foot on it and send it back across goal for his second score of the season.
A superb individual effort from freshman midfielder Lamar Batista and a clinical finish from Selemani led to the Gauchos’ second goal just a few minutes later.
Playing as a holding midfielder, Batista made a great play to snuff out a CSUN pass into the final third. From there, he took a touch then launched a long ball over the top that split the Matadors’ two center backs and found its way to Selemani, who rounded the keeper to his right before tapping it in to the open net for his fourth goal of the year and his second in as many games.
The visitors scored their lone goal on a bit of a fluke play, as a Gaucho clearance caromed off the back of a CSUN player towards the penalty spot where a wide-open Edwin Quiroz was able to collect it and tap it past UCSB keeper Titouan Le Roux.
The Matadors had just three shots in the second half, none of which required much effort from Le Roux. Their best chance at an equalizer came from a soft back pass in the final minute of the match, but junior center back Jeff Quezada got back and made a sliding block to neutralize the scoring chance.
UCSB opens Big West North Division play next week with a home game against Sacramento State on Wednesday night at 7:05 p.m. After that, the Gauchos travel north to Cal Poly on Saturday for another game in the Blue-Green rivalry.