NEW YORK-- For a little more than an hour here Saturday morning, it was a game. After that, the Columbia Lions took charge and, led by Shahin Shayan's three-goal performance, sent Harvard's soccer team down to defeat in its season opener.
Sparked by captain Fred Herold's sterling play in the nets, the Crimson played Columbia even until the 61:21 mark, part way through the second half (the game consists of two 45 minute halves). Shayan broke the game open at that point with a low hard shot off the inside of the right post, and the Lions rolled after that.
Until that point, however, the Harvard booters had held their own against the New Yorkers. With Bill Forbush marking Shayan man-to-man and Steve Yakopec marking Lion Fred Sock, the inexperienced Crimson defense stopped Columbia cold for the first 35 minutes of the game.
And as the Harvard players began to get their footing on the wet grass, scoring chances started to open up. At the 30 minute mark, Tommy Hsiao took a pass from Lee Nelson and launched a missle off his left foot toward the upper right-hand corner of the net--only to be robbed by goalie John McElaney.
Five minutes later, Harold Martin broke in alone on McElaney and powdered a low shot into the corner of the Lion goal. Suddenly, it was Harvard 1-Columbia 0, and the season's prospects looked just dandy.
Equally suddenly, Shayan struck back. With 8:44 remaining in the half, the Iranian sophomore tied the game on a shot for which Herold had no chance. At the half, it was one-up.
When Herold stopped a Sock breakaway with a Bernie Parent-like kick save early in the second half, it looked as if coach George Ford's defensive alignment (three forward, three midfielders, four fullbacks) just might be able to contain the Lions.
Enter Shayan. At 61:21, he beat Herold with his low blast off the inside of the post. Just seven minutes later, after yet another Herold save on a Sock breakaway, Shayan sealed the game's outcome with an easy tap-in on passes from Sock and Ed Trian.
Harvard had only one more chance the rest of the game, when Tony Ardilla smashed shot past the Lions' keeper and toward the corner of the net. Luck did not bless the Crimson, though, as the blast ricocheted off the post and bounded away.
After the game, Coach Ford identified part of the problem as the lack of solid playmaking in the midfield area.
In the final analysis, though, it may have been too much to expect a defensive line with no varsity experience to contain the likes of Shayan, Sock and Triana.
For the record, it was the first time a Columbia soccer team had beaten Harvard since 1915, but that's not to say things aren't looking up.
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