Top-ranked Marshall hangs on for 1-0 win over No. 3 Central Florida

— By David Walsh

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. — Adam Aoumaich’s first-half goal and a ruling to disallow Central Florida’s apparent tying goal in the closing seconds allowed Marshall to escape with a 1-0 win over the Knights on Saturday night at Hoops Family Field/Veterans Memorial Soccer Complex.

It was Marshall’s first home match as the No. 1 team in the nation and a record-crowd of 3,075 turned out and breathed a collective sigh of relief when that tying goal was waved off.

The Herd took the lead in the 24th minute when Pablo Simon sent a cross to Aoumaich who converted with his left foot on the back post run.

“We know each other,” Aoumaich said. “He sent the cross over and I got it in.”

The lead remained one until 25 seconds remained. That’s when Perrotta rolled the ball out for a kick downfield and most likely run out the clock. Instead, UCF’s Zane Bubb, who had gone off the field when the pass just moments earlier had gone out, snuck back in, slid and knocked the ball away from Perrotta, and also brought him down. The ball went to A.J. Seals, who fired the ball into an empty goal for the apparent tying goal.

While the Knights celebrated, the referee chose to review the play (on a tablet) and would determine the goal should not count because Bubb had not first reestablished himself.

Herd fans, shocked the the moment the play happened, let out shouts of joy when the decision got rendered and the Knights showed obvious disappointment.

“I thought, ‘oh my God’,” Aoumaich said of that goal. “Almost had a heart attack.”

Herd coach Chris Grassie said the official based the call on the fact Bubb had gone off the pitch.

“UCF played well,” Grassie said. “We should not have been in that position. We could’ve put the game away way earlier.”

Marshall is 2-0 in the Sun Belt Conference and 8-0-0 overall. This continues the team’s best start in program history.

It was Senior Night for the Herd. Those players recognized before the match were Aoumaich, Alexander Adjetey, Gabriel Perrotta, Gabe Sitler and Aymane Sordo.

UCF came in ranked No. 3 nationally, its highest position in school history.

Marshall also played without leading point-getter Matthew Bell (out on red card violation) and Theo Godard. Alvaro Garcia-Pascual, the transfer from Coastal Carolina, missed his second match to get over an injury.

“Down three players? Just shows the depth we have,” Aoumaich said.

Grassie should have all three back by Wednesday when the Herd takes on VCU in Richmond, Va. The two-game road trip wraps up Sunday when the Herd takes on Georgia State in Atlanta.

“How do I pick a team after that performance?” Grassie said.

Grassie said the lofty ranking serves as inspiration for the opponent.

“We have to understand we’re going to get everybody’s best shot,” Grassie said.

“Try your best and just play,” Aoumaich said.

Both Perrotta and Juanvi, keeper for UCF, finished with three saves each. The Knights, 4-1-2, are off to their best start since the 2011 season.

Marshall is 6-0 all-time against the Knights with one win coming in overtime. The first match between the two teams in 2012 was played at Hurricane High.

Marshall’s goal differential is now we (26-3) and record in the last 14 matches is 11-2-1. This is Perrott’s fourth clean sheet. He and Sitler also combined for one.

This was UCF’s first road match since a season-opening 2-1 win at No. 9 Clemson on August 24.

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