It was a tale of two halves for the Wildcats.
After a pulsating first 45 saw Northwestern (5-4-1, 1-1-1 B1G) deadlocked against #5 Indiana (6-1-2, 2-0 B1G), the ‘Cats were unable to keep up with the Hoosier’s firepower as they fell 3-1 following a spate of defensive lapses.
The Hoosiers got on the board first with 8:30 left in the first half, as substitute Maouloune Goambelle won out in a scrum in front of goal to poke the ball past Wildcat keeper Miha Miskovic after what appeared to be a series of failed clearances from Northwestern defenders. The error was the first of a few that proved catastrophic down the stretch.
“We just can't be messing around with the ball in the box,” midfielder Matt Moderwell said. “Indiana is a team that can finish, and we should have done a better job of getting the ball out of there.”
Fans did not wait long for an equalizer; first-year Achara Jr. scored his second of the year after receiving the ball just outside the box as Indiana closed down around him. Achara unleashed a right-footed curler that keeper Roman Celetano could do nothing to stop.
Northwestern was not able to keep up with the 5th ranked Hoosiers after the half. Although the ‘Cats had their chances, most notably on a through-ball to Achara in which the forward rounded the corner but smashed the ball against the post, they couldn’t get past Celetano. Indiana winger Joshua Penn added to Indiana’s lead on a cross that went off Garrett Opperman’s leg into the net, and midfielder Aidan Morris sealed the win on a rebound in the 66th minute.
Northwestern did not look as sharp in the second as Indiana managed to pull away. Coach Lenahan noted that Northwestern came out aggressively with the Hoosiers, but let up in the final period.
“I thought we weren't quite mature enough as a good team,'' said Lenahan. “Tonight we tried to go toe-to toe, and for a while we did what we needed to do. But if you go toe-to-toe with [Indiana], you can't make the mistakes we made. We just lacked a little maturity late in the second half to take this one.”
Despite the defensive miscues, Lenahan viewed the match as indicative of how the young ‘Cats can progress over the year.
“It was a good learning experience,” Lenahan said. “You have to figure out how to play against not just good teams, but good teams that know how to win, and that’s what Indiana did tonight.”