Sunday, September 20, 2009

Colleges: Mora grabs late winner for lethargic Bulls

TAMPA – A lethargic, plodding display on a sweltering afternoon by No.5 South Florida was salvaged by a beautiful goal with seven minutes to play as Jorge Mora gave the Bulls a 2-1 victory against Big East rival No.21 Notre Dame at the USF Soccer Stadium on Sunday.

Francisco Aristeguieta picked up the ball off a throw-in deep in the left corner of the field. He slipped a pass to Bernardo Anor, who eluded his defender, and sent a perfect cross to the far post, where an unmarked Mora met it with a thumping header into the left corner of the net.

“I just decided to put my head on it and get enough power behind it,” Mora said. “It’s one of those things you picture, you visualize the game the night before, and you hope you’re in a position like that, and I just got lucky to be in the right place at the right time.”

Bulls coach George Kiefer credited Anor with being patient enough to look up and see Mora unmarked at the far post instead of rushing a cross into the penalty area.

“Bernardo is a good player,” Kiefer said. “A lot of college players would have just crossed that ball. He gets his eyes up, sees Jorge and puts it on Jorge’s head.”

South Florida (5-0-1, 1-0-1 Big East) had taken the lead in the fifth minute as Sinclair notched his first goal as a Bull. Ashani Fairclough sent a long ball from inside his own half forward to try and utilize Sinclair’s speed, and the U.S. under-18 forward beat his defender and a advancing goalkeeper to the ball to flick his header into the vacant net.

“Once I got through and I saw the goalie hesitated, I knew I could get to it before him,” Sinclair said.

Notre Dame coach Bobby Clark was disappointed not only at giving up an early goal, but the manner in which it occured.

“It was a fairly simple ball over the top and we got caught sleeping,” Clark said. “It was a very disappointing goal to give away.”

USF had a chance to double its lead less than a minute later as the Bulls broke on a counter-attack, and Sinclair put Anor through on the left, but he had his shot well saved.

After that, though, the heat began to take a toll. With a kickoff temperature in the mid-90s, the game slowed, and with it so did the Bulls movement off the ball, causing poor giveaways in midfield. That allowed Notre Dame (3-3-1, 1-1-0) to come back into the game, but the Irish weren’t incisive in the attacking third of the field before the break, causing USF goalkeeper Jeff Attinella very little trouble.

That changed after halftime with the introduction of Irish forward Tamba Samba, who jump-started the Notre Dame offense with his physicality. Samba almost created an equalizer for the Irish in the 52nd minute as he turned his man at the top of the penalty area and played in Steven Perry 15 yards from goal, but Attinella anticipated the pass well, advancing quickly before blocking the shot with his legs.

Notre Dame continued to build pressure as the Bulls seemed content to sit back in defense and try to use its speed on the counter-attack, but that ended up costing USF in the 78th minute as a fine cross from the right by Notre Dame’s Michael Rose was met by Bright Dike, who broke away from his marker to head into the right corner of the net.

“I was proud of the way the team fought back,” Clark said. “I thought we did control large parts of the game, but they always looked dangerous on the break. They have some very fast players.”

The goal seemed to create a sense of urgency for the Bulls, Mora coming close to restoring the Bulls lead when he fired a shot from the top of the penalty area just wide. Sinclair then had a point-blank shot well saved before Mora’s header gave the Bulls victory.

“I’ll take a win, even if we didn’t play as great as we'd like,” Mora said. “We worked hard, and we’re very happy with the result.”

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