FAYETTEVILLE — Freshman Parker Goins sneaked the ball past the goal line in the 88th minute of play Friday night to break a scoreless tie and help Arkansas defeat Mississippi State, 1-0, in its SEC opener.
“First off, big shout out to the fans, they were tremendous,” Arkansas head coach Colby Hale said. “Being at home in those last five minutes, they gave us a huge lift. You can credit Parker (Goins), Nayeli (Perez) and the fans with the goal. I thought they were big time tonight. That was something we had been talking about, putting together a full 90 minutes. We fought and battled in what was an SEC game. Mississippi State is a very good team, but I thought we were deserving of it tonight.”
1,515 fans were in attendance for the match, marking the second-largest crowd of the season in the five matches played at home so far. Arkansas is averaging 1,576 fans this season, which keeps it in the top ten in the nation.
Arkansas (5-4-0) and Mississippi State (6-1-1) were deadlocked for nearly the entire match and seemed to be headed to overtime in the waning minutes of regulation. Both sides were almost even in shots and corner kicks, but the Razorbacks were struggling down the stretch to even get a look at the goal.
Over the final 20 minutes of play, Goins’ goal was the only shot Arkansas was able to register against the MSU defense. Fortunately, it was the only shot that mattered.
After a deflection sent the ball to the left side of the field, freshman Nayeli Perez crossed in a pass from the end line where Goins was waiting next to the MSU keeper, Catalina Perez. Perez tried to punch the ball away, but Goins was able to corral it and push it over the line for the winning score.
It’s Goins’ team-leading sixth goal of the year and second game winner of the season. Her season point total continues to rise as she now has 16 points, good for third in the conference. In three of her last four matches, the freshman has totaled two points and the game-winner was her first since scoring against Abilene Christian (Aug. 27).
As for Perez, it was her third assist of the year and fifth point of the season. With her helper, Perez became the eight Razorback with five or more points this season.
The Razorbacks and Bulldogs played evenly through the first half as Arkansas held the slight edge in shots, 11-10. Possession traded sides for much of the second half as both teams only managed seven shots combined.
Redshirt junior Jordan Harris made her second start of the year at goalkeeper and notched her second shutout, making four saves, three in the first half.
Arkansas’ back line was also tremendous all night, especially in the second half, as it limited the Bulldogs to just three shots in the final 45 minutes with one being on target. As a team, the shutout was its’ fourth of the year, tying it for fifth in the SEC.
“We’ve put together a lot of good halves and moments at this point in the season,” Hale said. “We had been doing some things well, but hadn’t put together a complete 90 minutes. The backs were tremendous tonight as they limited Mississippi State’s chances to just from distance. Overall, it was a big performance.”
Now, the Razorbacks set their sights on their final non-conference match of 2017 as Oral Roberts visits Razorback Field on Sunday with first kick slated for 5 p.m. The game will be televised on SEC Network+.