Marquette was already up 1-0 on Saturday night when Tiago Teixeira decided to flail his arm into the air on the goal line to stop a Connor Alba shot from putting MU up 2-0. That, kids, is a textbook straight red card penalty for a deliberate handball to deny a scoring chance, and that was that for Teixeira’s night.
Luka Prpa calmly swatted the ensuing penalty kick into the top left quarter, and things officially went haywire for the Golden Eagles. After going without a goal for nearly four and a half matches, MU blasted in two more goals over the final 20 minutes on their way to a 4-0 win over the Red Storm. Marquette is now 4-7-1 overall but 2-2-1 in Big East play for a cool seven points with four matches left to go. After the conclusion of Saturday night’s action, those seven points were good enough for a three-way tie with Xavier and St. John’s in the Big East table. A three-way tie for fourth means the third team is in sixth place, and that’s the final conference tournament berth in this league.
Things were already looking good for Marquette in this game before Prpa’s penalty kick. Josh Coan’s goal in the 41st minute was an excellent sign for MU for a couple of reasons. First, there’s the aforementioned four match scoreless streak. You can have a four match winless streak but still feel kind of good about yourself if you’re at least scoring goals. Marquette was not doing that. The other aspect of it is the fact that there had been just one goal between the two teams over the last three meetings. One! That was last year’s overtime game winner by Connor Alba. When MU got a first half goal, it was a pretty big deal in the big picture of this season and the big picture of the rivalry with the Johnnies.
It was a great goal by Coan, not just for the velocity on his shot to beat Lenny Wilson, but also because he had slipped and fallen just seconds earlier.
Here’s the handball by Teixeira and Prpa’s ensuing PK:
Here's @luka_prpa converting the penalty after a St. John's handball off the line denied @connoralba. Golden Eagles with a big insurance goal and SJU down to 10 men for the final 25 minutes. pic.twitter.com/QIuSpTS5zQ— Marquette Soccer (@marquettesoccer) October 14, 2018
All Marquette had to do at that point was button up for the final 30 minutes and take their win. However, sometimes when you’re playing against 10 men, you get some quality chances. That was the case for Connor Alba in the 73rd minute, as he made a great move to cross up two defenders and get open in the middle of the top of the box.
As if things weren’t already going in MU’s favor in this one, Lady Luck shined her light on Lukas Sunesson in the 83rd minute. Diego Nunez made a great run through the middle of the park and slid a wonderful pass to Sunesson on the right wing. He got enough space to fire a shot, and put it just high enough to glance off the bottom of the crossbar and go into the net.
We’ve gone all of this way without talking about Luis Barraza, who was really great in this match for Marquette. He finished with six saves to complete his fourth clean sheet of the season, and was seemingly in complete control of the match on his end of the field. He was directing traffic and imploring his defenders to make the right plays in front of him to give him the best chance to succeed. Marquette will need a few more performances like this from Barraza down the stretch if they want to lock up a Big East tournament spot.
Up Next: Well, it’s more good news for Marquette, to be honest. Remember how MU is in a three-way tie with a St. John’s team that they’ve already beaten now? The third team in the group is Xavier (4-4-5, 2-2-1 Big East), and they’re next on the slate. That match will be at 7pm on Saturday night at Valley Fields, with a streaming broadcast on the Big East Digital Network.