Dating back to Oct. 25, 2009, No. 7 Indiana men’s soccer hadn’t lost to Northwestern in 14 straight matches. On Saturday afternoon, that streak ended as Northwestern forward Ugo Achara Jr. scored the game-winning goal in the 87th minute to break a scoreless tie and lift the Wildcats to a 1-0 win.
The Hoosiers struggled to settle in defensively for much of the match, and offensively they couldn’t capitalize on any of the 17 shots they attempted. IU sophomore goalkeeper Roman Celentano was busy in net all day as he tallied five saves, but couldn’t make it six as Achara’s last-minute goal caromed off Celentano and buried into the top right corner to seal Indiana’s fate.
Northwestern goalkeeper Miha Miskovic was equally impressive while facing far more IU scoring chances. Miskovic matched Celentano with fives saves, and the two biggest came in the final 25 minutes when he swatted away Spencer Glass’ shot in the 66th minute and Herbert Endeley’s shot in the 84th minute.
In a surprise shake-up to IU’s Starting XI, Victor Bezerra, IU’s leading goal scorer, did not start the match and instead played 48 minutes as a substitute. Sophomore forward Maouloune Goumballe started in Bezerra’s place, while redshirt freshman Quinten Helmer made his first career start in the midfield.
Injuries, once again, were also a problem for the Hoosiers. Junior right back Nyk Sessock sat out a second straight game with a leg injury, allowing Brett Bebej to make his second straight starting nod. Senior forward Ian Black followed suit as he did not log minutes, giving way to extended playing time for Helmer, Ryan Wittenbrink and Ben Yeagley.
Indiana outclassed Northwestern in nearly every column on the stat sheet, but the eye test indicated a much closer match. While the Hoosiers dominated the first half with a 10-2 shot margin and 7-2 corner kicks margin, the scoring chances rarely materialized into legitimate opportunities as the Wildcats forced awkward angles and move the ball quickly.
In what is already an odd and unfamiliar spring season, Indiana’s loss to Northwestern proves that no match will come easy in the conference-only, 10-game regular-season schedule. And from here on out, the slate only gets tougher as IU hosts No. 20 Penn State next Sunday.