Marshall keeper Oliver Semmle conceded his first goal to the Kentucky Wildcats and Thundering Herd freshman Matthew Bell scored his seventh goal of the season as the two sides played to a 1-1 draw Friday evening at the Wendy & Vickie Bell Soccer Complex in Lexington, Kentucky.
The battle between the two Sun Belt Conference rivals was the first for each as members of the conference and came with both sides ranked in the top 10 in the country.
Bell’s second-half goal gave No. 7 Marshall a 1-0 lead in the 47th minute, but Nick Gutmann answered the call in the 53rd minute to pull No. 6 Kentucky even.
But staining an otherwise tight match was an offside call against the Herd in the 83rd minute.
After Milo Yosef’s free kick ricocheted off a Kentucky defender, Ryan Holmes fought through traffic and found the back of the net, which would have given the Herd a 2-1 lead had the goal not been disallowed.
The call stunned Marshall players, some of whom were already celebrating, and left the coaching staff searching for an explanation.
“We won that game. We scored a legitimate goal. What more can I say,” head coach Chris Grassie said. “I’m not going to criticize anybody, but we scored a legitimate goal that was taken from us for no reason.”
In 45 meetings between Kentucky and Marshall, it was just their fifth draw. The two sides had previously been in nine overtime matches, but with a rule change for college soccer this year, regular-season games that are tied after 90 minutes end without overtime.
The Wildcats (4-0-2) fired off six first-half shots and put three of them on target, forcing Marshall’s Semmle into three saves. Two came against reigning SBC offensive player of the week Eythor Bjorgolfsson, who missed three header attempts in the draw.
Two diving saves, the second more impressive than the first from Semmle, kept the match scoreless. About 10 minutes later, he went to the ground again and made his third save on a shot from Casper Grening in the 25th minute.
The Wildcats will look back on the first half and see missed opportunities. None was bigger than one in the 40th minute from Danny Evans, who was staring down Semmle and had him 1-on-1 on a counterattack but pushed the shot wide of the net.
In an uncharacteristic performance, Bjorgolfsson missed on three header shot attempts in the draw. Two were saved and one missed wide from the preseason SBC offensive player of the year.
The Wildcats took a dozen shots to the Herd’s seven. Semmle made three saves, each in the first half. Kentucky’s Casper Mols made four.
Marshall’s Vinny Fernandez took a team-high three shots, two of which came right in front of the goal but were saved by Mols, who deflected one and caught the other with two hands on back-to-back attempts in the 63rd minute.
“Ollie made some big saves, but their keeper made some bigger ones,” Grassie said.
Marshall next faces WVU at Hoops Family Field on Saturday, Sept. 24, at 7:15 p.m. Kentucky hosts Lipscomb on Tuesday evening.
Luke Creasy is a reporter for The Herald-Dispatch. Follow him on Twitter @LukeCreasy or reach him by phone at 304-526-2800.