After 89 minutes and 11 saves from Kyle Parks, a bicycle kick from inside the box with 31 seconds remaining made the difference between Harvard and Dartmouth at the end of a hard-fought contest Saturday evening at Jordan Field.
With the last-minute goal, No. 19/20 Dartmouth (10-3-1, 3-0-1) put to rest any real chance of Harvard (2-8-4, 1-2-2 Ivy) winning the Ancient Eight this year and making the NCAA tournament. The Big Green, on the other hand, continued its strong season and vaulted to top of the conference standings with a 1-0 victory.
The game didn’t start well for the Crimson, after it was reduced to ten men early on, when freshman midfielder Paolo Belloni-Urso received a red card in the 35th minute. Belloni-Urso was yellow-carded after being on the field for only a few minutes, and was sent off after a mistiming a seemingly-tame challenge directly in front of the referee a few minutes later.
“I was really proud of the way the team fought, down a man most of the game,” senior midfielder Christian Sady said. “We didn’t have too many chances, but I thought we defended really hard and worked well together as a unit. It was really positive from everyone on the field, even though we didn’t get the result we wanted.”
This strong defensive display from Harvard was needed against its Ancient Eight foe, who boasts the country’s 10th best offense. The Big Green employed a direct style of play, often trying to find junior forwards Eduvie Ikoba and Justin Donawa on long balls over the top of the Crimson defense. Ikoba caused lots of problems with his strength, and at times Donawa found lots of time and space down the right flank.
As a result of the this pressure Dartmouth won nine of the game’s ten corner kicks. Many were dangerously sent into the box, but senior goalkeeper Kyle Parks was quick to claim when the ball came his way. Parks tied his career high for saves on the day, keeping the Big Green out 11 times. His performance was highlighted by a dazzling save in the 21st minute, when he tipped a dipping shot from Dartmouth junior forward Noah Paravicini over the crossbar.
After shifting into a more defensive formation as a result of Belloni-Urso’s sending off, Harvard looked as if it were going to keep Dartmouth out, and even looked like scoring on a few occasions. The Crimson spent most of the game with 10 men behind the ball, which frustrated the Big Green, as attack after attack was repelled by the Harvard defense.
Instead, it took a moment of brilliance from senior midfielder Matt Danilack in the dying moments of the game to salvage a win for the Big Green. With Harvard struggling to clear the ball out of its box, Danilack capitalized on the confusion, with his overhead kick finding the back of the Harvard net.
The Crimson, in contrast to its counterparts in green, started the game by trying to pass its way up the field, and attempted to counter Dartmouth’s direct style by patiently waiting to find its opening. While struggled to switch the point of attack before Belloni-Urso’s sending off, it found it almost impossible when it was forced to do it with one less player.
While Harvard struggled to find its rhythm on offence, it held together well on defense, making the last minute goal that much more heartbreaking.
“It was a super tough way to go out. Keeping the scoreline 0-0 for the whole game and giving up a goal with 30 seconds to go is not a great feeling,” said captain and defender Eric Gylling. “I think the rest of the game shows how committed the whole team was. Everyone was super supportive of one another afterwards, and that was great to see.”
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