The Lobos were on a four-match win streak before they faced Kentucky on Saturday in Albuquerque. But dominating possession, overall shots, shots on target, corner kick and other key areas of the match still weren’t enough to avoid the loss by a goal against the Wildcats.
The Lobos played their first match of the 2017 Conference-USA schedule on Saturday, which also marked the second straight season that UNM has opened conference play against Kentucky.
Starting in their usual 4-4-2 formation, UNM senior Sam Gleadle and freshman Alex Vedamanikam led the attack for the Lobos.
The match couldn’t have started much better for the Lobos. After only two minutes into the game, they registered their first shot on target when a cross from Aaron Herrera was headed by Sam Gleadle into the opposing goalkeeper’s hand.
The early minutes of the game were completely dominated by the Lobos. Compared to the Wildcats, the Lobos appeared up to the task and set to keep their winning streak intact.
In the first half, the Lobos registered nine shots, while Kentucky managed just two.The Lobos also produced five corner kicks.
Despite that, the Lobos headed into the second half trailing Kentucky by one goal, which was scored off a penalty kick just before halftime.
Throughout the first half, the Lobos kept dominating possession and creating chances to score goals. However, the chances to score goals were few, and the Lobos failed to capitalize on them.
With two seconds left in the first half, the Lobos conceded a penalty kick for a handball within the penalty box. Kentucky freshman Aime Mabika stepped up to take the penalty and scored to give the Wildcats a 1-0 lead heading into the second half.
“Pretty painful,” head coach Jeremy Fishbein said in a press release. “I thought we were really good the first half. We were one touch, one pass short in the final third. We created opportunities and did not put them away.”
The second half started with UNM searching for the equalizing goal and Kentucky aware of trying to maintain its lead. The Lobos looked to threaten more in front of the goal and chances, though few and far between, arrived. UNM players Sam Gleadle, Simon Spangenberg and Devin Boyce all fired shots at the Kentucky goal, but none found the back of the net.
The Wildcats had their opportunities as well. From a Kentucky corner in the 55th minute, Kentucky senior Andrew McKelvey chipped a ball over the crossbar. Just two minutes later, he attempted a header that also sailed just over the crossbar to keep it 1-0 Wildcats.
"I thought for the majority of the game we were really good,” Fishbein said. “We connected passes, played in their half, and our speed of play was good. We talked about Kentucky before the match and knew that this is a team you can't give openings to. All they need is one then they're going to defend — they're really happy defending. We made two mistakes near the goal, and that's what happened."
He also said Saturday’s result does not have a bearing over the upcoming ones, and the Lobos will be excited, prepared and ready for the challenge.
The loss dropped the Lobos to a record of 4-3 on the season, while Kentucky improved to 5-1-1.
New Mexico will be playing away from home in their next three matches against South Carolina, Marshall and Loyola Marymount, respectively.
The next home game for the Lobos will be on Oct. 7 at 7 p.m. when they face Florida Atlantic.
Ajinkya Patil is a freelance sports reporter for the Daily Lobo. He primarily covers men’s soccer. He can be contacted at email@example.com or on Twitter @ajinkyapatil_16.