For the first time this season, the No. 12 Georgia soccer team was shut out in a 1-0 loss to Auburn on Sunday, the Bulldogs’ first loss of the season.
Coming into the match, Auburn and Georgia allowed the fewest goals in the conference. The Bulldogs only allowed two goals through four games, and the Tigers allowed one goal across two games this season.
“Well, obviously after the goal they sat deep, and even when they went a player down, they shifted into a 4-4-1 at that point,” head coach Billy Lesesne said in a postgame press conference. “So, they had two blocks of four ... there's no space behind them.”
After averaging six shots in the first half through its first two games, Auburn was held to only one shot in the first 45 minutes. Georgia took five shots, three were on target but neither team could take the lead before halftime.
“We wanted to be more forward thinking as far as our link-up play in wide positions and get balls into the box a little bit earlier,” Lesesne said. “So they didn't have the opportunity to get numbers behind it.”
Auburn started the second half on the front foot, taking four shots before Georgia’s first of the half. It looked like Georgia’s attack would get a chance to break the 0-0 deadlock in the 55th minute when the Bulldogs earned a player advantage.
Auburn goalkeeper Maddie Prohaska misplayed a ball right into senior Georgia forward Mollie Belisle. Belisle tried to round the keeper to get a clear shot on goal, but Prohaska brought her down to earn a red card and send Auburn to 10 players.
The red card opened the game up for Georgia with the Bulldogs taking two shots on target less than a minute after earning the player advantage. Despite having the advantage, the Tigers’ defense kept Georgia’s attack scoreless.
“They got a red card, but it became more just like a keep away game where they decided to pack the box,” Belisle said. “And at the end of the day, just boot it out as big as they could.”
Shortly after the Bulldogs’ went up a player, the Georgia defense gave Auburn the best opportunity of the match to take the lead.
A foul by sophomore forward Mallie McKenzie set up an Auburn free kick in Georgia territory. Auburn midfielder Anna Haddock sent a pass into the box and Georgia defender Kayla Bruster pulled down defender M.E. Craven for a penalty kick in the 69th minute.
It was the second time this season the Bulldogs have conceded a penalty kick, the first coming off another Bruster foul against Kentucky last week. Both resulted in points after Auburn’s Sydney Richards sent the ball past Georgia keeper Emory Wegener to give the Tigers a 1-0 lead.
“In the moment when it happened, I wasn't concerned personally because I knew we had been carrying the momentum of the game,” Belisle said. “But it obviously flipped the switch and made us have to turn around and now try to get that goal back.”
Lesesne made changes to try and grab the equalizer, subbing sophomore forward Chloe Chapman for senior defender Caroline Chipman in the 74th minute. The change left only Bruster and junior defender Cecily Stoute in the backline as the Bulldogs went for a tying goal.
Despite bringing players into the attack — Georgia took 16 shots in the second half trying to grab the game-tying goal — the Bulldogs could not find the equalizer and failed to earn any points toward their SEC standing for the first time in 2020.
“It was up to us to have some quality in the final third and complete a chance and finish an opportunity that we weren't able to do,” Lesesne said. “Obviously we're, we're disappointed in the result, disappointed not to put chances away when we have the numerical advantage.”