Missouri can’t complete comeback, loses 2-1 at Tennessee

The Tigers were looking for some last-minute magic, but were unable to equalize.

Missouri had its chances to come back from a two goal deficit, but its efforts came up just short in Knoxville, falling 2-1 to Tennessee at Regal Soccer Stadium.

The Tigers kept the game scoreless until the final 10 seconds of the first half, when Tennessee forward Alicia Donley got her head on the end of a bending free kick from Claudia Dipasupil and nodded the ball into the top left corner past a diving Isabella Alessio.

Their lead doubled in the 71st minute. Volunteers forward Mackenzie George sent in a left-footed cross from the right wing and Jaida Thomas got to the loose ball first, placing the ball into the back of the net.

George was a major threat to the Tigers all game long. Her battle with Zoe Cross on Missouri’s right wing was competitive, and George utilized her quick footwork and excellent first touch to give the right midfielder troubles.

Missouri crept back into the game in the 78th minute, when Cross sent a ball into the box, a clear attempt at a cross. The ball, however, curled towards the back post and through the hands of Volunteers goalkeeper Lindsey Romig to cut the lead to one once again.

“In the SEC it’s very tough on the road, and you typically need everything to go your way to grab a win,” Mizzou head coach Bryan Blitz said in a statement. “I’m so proud of the way our team battled and fought to stay in it and put up a late fight. We had a couple of costly mistakes, but you need to credit [Romig] for the way she played tonight.” That goal was the first of Cross’s career, and poetically, came on an attempted cross.

The final minutes of the match saw some intensity from the Tigers, but they were unable to equalize. Cross took a desperation shot with 10 seconds to go, but her 40 yard strike was tipped over the bar by Romig to seal the win for Tennessee.

The loss makes it 15 straight road games in which Missouri has failed to get points, a winless streak that dates back to Oct. 12, 2017 at Kentucky.

Alessio was given the starting spot in goal, a late addition to the lineup. She made two mistakes that resulted in goals in her game against South Carolina two weeks ago, and was subbed off in the 70th minute.

McKenna Sheehan got the nod last week against Vanderbilt and had a phenomenal game, but Blitz went with Alessio against the Volunteers.

The South Dakota transfer put on a goalkeeper clinic in the first half. She was tested early with a low shot that bounced just before reaching the goal line. Alessio dealt with it perfectly, coming out to meet the shot and not letting it escape from her hands.

She punched a corner kick away from danger in the ninth minute, showing that her confidence was not shattered following her performance at South Carolina.

But perhaps the best save of the first half came with just a few minutes left in the half. A Volunteers attacker hit a shot from close range, but Alessio reacted quickly and deflected the ball upwards, leaping up to catch her own deflection to preserve the draw.

Tennessee’s first goal was impossible to save, as Donley’s header was from close range and was perfectly placed.

In the 83rd minute, Alessio made another fantastic save, getting a hand on George’s left footed strike and tipping it over the bar.

Missouri’s star striker, Julissa Cisneros, was kept quiet through the first half. Tennessee marked her well and didn’t allow her to find much open space in the central final third.

But the second half saw Cisneros with more space, with more opportunities. She caused problems for the Volunteers defense, getting open on the left side and moving horizontally towards the center. She got a few shots off, but was unable to finish.

In the 78th minute, Cisneros got a 1v1 in the box and fired a shot that hit the crossbar.

Her passing from the left side was also effective. Her pass to Jenna Bartles in the 55th minute resulted in a Missouri penalty. She found an attacker at the back post and tried to get it to her, but the pass was just too heavy and was out of reach.

Missouri’s defense showed signs of improvement. With its 3-4-3 formation, having three defenders opens up the wings when the defenders play tight and opens up the central channels when wide. Through balls were an issue, but the back line showed good recovery defense which contributed to the high number of corner kicks for Tennessee – seven in total.

Head coach Bryan Blitz entered this game with 249 career wins. The 250 win milestone will have to wait at least another week. He has yet to win a game in Knoxville.

Missouri falls to 0-2 on the road and 1-2 on the season. Tennessee gets back in the win column, remaining undefeated at home and 2-2 on the year.

The Tigers come home to take on LSU next Friday – senior night – while the Volunteers travel to Lexington to face Kentucky next Sunday.

Edited by Jack Soble | jsoble@themaneater.com

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