Coming off three straight ties, the Belmont men’s soccer walked away with a win against Eastern Illinois University Wednesday night for the first time at home since Sept. 17.
Only scoring once in its last five games, Belmont looked to correct its form in front of goal by creating four dangerous chances in the first 15 minutes of the game.
In the 4th minute, juniors Case Cox and Jansen Wilson started a counterattack down the left flank for Belmont. Wilson crossed it in with his left foot and served junior Ayden von Essen a golden opportunity to find the lead, but the forward from Newcastle, Australia, couldn’t knock in the shot.
Belmont continued to push, dominating Eastern Illinois from every angle of the field.
In the 10th minute, Wilson won the ball back for Belmont just outside of the Panthers’ eighteen and served junior Michael Saunders in the middle. The Englishman controlled the ball and released a beautiful shot curving into the top-left corner, but Panther goalkeeper Chad Smith made the save.
Struggling to put the ball in the back of the net, Belmont continued to persevere.
Saunders’ previous left-footed effort led to a Belmont corner. On the delivery, Dylan Steely headed the ball with confidence aiming for the bottom-left corner but was denied, once again, by Smith. Off the rebound, junior AJ Chastonay headed the ball but hit the woodwork.
As the first half ended in a scoreless tie, Eastern Illinois weathered 19 total shots from the Bruins.
The first Belmont chance of the second half came in the 50th minute as the ball landed on the feet of Wilson inside the Panthers’ box, but he sent his chance over the bar.
Minutes later, von Essen came close to redemption with an acrobatic bicycle kick, but his attempt was stopped by Smith.
In the 57th minute, Belmont won the ball back in the Panthers’ defense and senior Liam O’Brien received the ball just inside the box. He settled it with his left foot and released a curved shot into the left side of Smith’s goal.
Leading Eastern Illinois 1-0, the game was now in Belmont’s control.
In the 66th minute, junior Sam Rowan delivered a corner into the box. Smith couldn’t keep hold of the ball, and taking advantage of the keeper’s error, junior Esteban Leiva successfully headed the ball into an empty net.
After finding his first goal of the season, Leiva locked the score, sealing the game for the Bruins.
“We played well today,” said O’Brien. “We deserved the three points and probably a couple goals, so more goals as well but glad to just get the win and keep rolling into next week against Evansville.”
O’Brien, who had scored a brace on the home opener against the University of Southern Indiana in August, found the back of the net, once again, at home since Belmont’s last win on Sept. 17.
“I think you saw on the field today how much we improved since even since last game,” he said. “And I think our confidence will grow from this as well, so yeah, just really excited for the tournament and then ultimately the end goal is to win the trophy and then become MVC champions.”
After the clean-sheet victory, the Bruins head to the University of Evansville for the final regular season match of the season on Wednesday night. Kickoff is scheduled for 6 p.m.
This article was written by Federico Pravettoni