SANTA BARBARA, Calif. – Josue España set up Ahinga Selemani with a 10th minute goal and UC Santa Barbara held UC Irvine off the board despite playing a man down for the final 16 minutes of the match to secure a 1-0 win in Thursday night's Big West contest at Harder Stadium.
The first conference game at home for the Gauchos, it improved their record to 6-5-1 with an unbeaten 2-0-1 mark in league play. The struggling Anteaters fell to 2-10-0, 0-3-0.
España and Selemani each turned in man-of-the-match performances for UCSB, with the former single-handedly creating a number of scoring opportunities.
With the win, UCSB is now unbeaten in eight straight interdivisional contests, improving their league-best record in such games to 14-2-3 since its inception in 2012.
"We certainly didn't get any style points for the game tonight, but at this point of the year what really matters is wins," said UCSB head coach Tim Vom Steeg. "I like that we were able to close out the game even though we were a man down. With two overtime games last week and then us having to work extra hard tonight, we're going to find a way to get our legs back for a big game against CSUN on Saturday."
Selemani's goal, his third of the season and first since Sept. 9 against Butler, was set up by a long run from España, who was on the ball for about 30 seconds while bringing it up from behind the center line.
Once he reached the 18-yard box, España slowed down, reversed course then played a ball to Selemani on the left side of the six. UCSB's junior forward took a step to his left, then drilled a low left-footed shot inside the far post.
After going up 1-0, España kept up the momentum for UCSB with a pair of Grade-A opportunities in the first half.
In the 25th minute, the senior midfielder made another great run through the midfield, planting for a shot just outside the 18 that would was goal-bound but blocked by a UCI defender.
Less than 60 seconds later, España found himself alone above the 18 on the left side, but his curler just missed the far post.
Mario Ortiz was the most dangerous offensive player for the Anteaters, managing a pair of close-range shots in the contest.
In the 38th, a loose ball came to Ortiz deep in the box. He quickly turned and shot but UCSB goalie Titouan Le Roux made a huge diving save.
Just after the halftime break, Ortiz was played into a 1-v-1 with Le Roux, but his clanged off the crossbar and out.
Moving DePuy to center back after a red card was issued in the 75th minute, the Gauchos did a great job of hunkering down and limiting the Anteaters at the end of the game. UCI managed all of one shot with the man advantage, a wide shot from Ivan Canales.
Senior right back/midfielder Andy Perez was the guilty party on the red card, meaning he will miss the team's next game.
UCSB returns to action on Saturday night at 7:05 p.m., hosting Cal State Northridge in the team's final regular season game against Big West South opponents. For tickets, call 805-893-UCSB or shop online here.