|Heady Cougars Scratch Out Win Over Mustangs|
Oktay Bulut’s header 10 minutes into the second half proved to be decisive as 15th-ranked Azusa Pacific edged past The Master’s College 2-1 Wednesday afternoon in a hard-fought GSAC match in the San Gabriel Valley.
After winning two straight to crawl above .500, the Mustangs fell back to the break-even mark (3-3 GSAC, 6-4-2 overall) in conference play with the loss and now hold sole possession of fifth place with four matches left in the regular season.
In a battle of the GSAC’s past two regular-season champions, the host Cougars drew first blood when Michael Sahagian took a cross from Otis Holt and redirected it past Mustang goalie Andrew Bussell just inside the right post from six yards out at the 31:56 mark.
The Mustangs didn’t get very many good looks in the first half as Joel Peluffo’s shot at 23:30 was their only one on goal and that was saved by APU goalie Joe Geletko. At the break, the Cougars had a 6-2 advantage in shots and the smallest of leads.
But, 4:41 into the second half, the Mustangs evened the match when Josh Hoeft lofted a right-wing cross over Geletko to a waiting Jake Marchesani who headed the ball into an empty net from about eight yards out. It was Marchesani’s second tally of the year.
The knotted score lasted all of 5:20, however, because at the 55:01 mark Bulut used his head to send the Cougars ahead for good. He received a right-side cross from Brett Taylor and headed it past Bussell for his fifth goal of the season.
Despite the disappointment of the moment, the Mustangs didn’t wilt. In fact, they came within inches of tying the match again when Peluffo’s header less than two minutes later hit the cross bar and caromed away. They challenged Geletko twice more down the stretch but a pair of Jader Santos shots were repelled and with those went the Mustangs’ chances.
With the end of regular-season play a little more than two weeks away, the Mustangs now turn their attention to a top four finish in conference play which would secure them a first-round home game in the GSAC Tournament that starts the first week of November.
But, it won’t be easy as evidenced by this Saturday’s pivotal home match with third-place and No. 14 Vanguard (4-1 in the GSAC). The game with the Lions kicks off at 2:00pm on Reese Field.