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No. 10 Creighton Edges No. 9 Butler in Game of Two Halves, 1-0

No. 10 Creighton Edges No. 9 Butler in Game of Two Halves, 1-0

The No. 10 Creighton Bluejays used a mix of high-pressure offense in the first half and organized, sound defense in the second to move to first place in the Big East with a 1-0 win over No. 9 Butler.

The Bluejays entered the game at Morrison Stadium with one of the best defenses in the nation, while the Bulldogs came in with the second-most goals per game in the country. The two contrasting styles were somewhat reversed in the first half, however. The Jays used constant pressure to earn a 1-0 lead by half thanks to a Riggs Lennon header off of a Joel Rydstrand corner-kick. Creighton also held the edge in the number of shots taken in the first half, 9-2. The second half saw Butler switch the script and work their counter-attacks to good measure. The Bulldogs had many chances, one coming in the final two seconds of the game, but weren’t able to find the back of the net, giving the Jays the win.

The game began with the two sides feeling each other out, in what was a match-up of two top 10 ranked programs. Creighton’s starting lineup from head man Elmar Bolowich remained very much unchanged from the previous game against St. John’s and much of the season’s previous games. The first decent chance of the game for either side came in the 4th minute, when a strong effort from Lennon was blocked at the top of the box before CU sent the ensuing cross directly at Butler keeper Eric Dick.

Butler’s only chances in the first half came on counter-attacks. Much of their efforts were hoofed passes forward toward their attackers, who were often outsmarted by Creighton’s backline. The game ratcheted up in the 11th minute when both teams got physical with one another. Creighton players took issue with Butler’s style of play, which often consisted of playing for a foul in a fashion similar to a Central American CONCACAF nation.

Shortly thereafter, some slick passing along the turf led directly to a Creighton corner-kick in the 14th minute. Swede Joel Rydstrand sent the cross into the box and Lennon, who had lost his man in the box, headed home in the lower right-hand corner of Dick’s goal. It was Lennon’s team-leading ninth goal of the season. The header also gave Creighton an early lead, something they strive for given their record when leading at the half (52-0-2) under Bolowich.

The goal livened up the game as Creighton continually pressed for a second goal. Utility-man Noah Franke had a strong effort towards goal blocked in the 18th minute, leading to a corner-kick. However, Bluejay center-half Peter Prescott sent the ensuing cross wide of goal. It was one of many half-chances for the Bluejays, who kept Butler on their back foot much of the first half. Any effort towards goal for Butler was often covered by Creighton’s organized defense.

Creighton nearly made it 2-0 in the 26th minute when Lennon broke free down the left-flank, who slid across goal to an open Bluejay forward. However, he was unable to slot home thanks to a last-minute clearance by Butler. The half ended with Creighton up 1-0 and looking like the better side.

The second half was almost the opposite as Butler pressed for an equalizer. However, the quality in finishing was lacking. It was evident early in the second half when some wonderful passing led to a breakaway on the right-flank for Butler, who sent a pass back to an awaiting Butler forward, who was unable to place his right-footed effort past a helpless Alex Kapp. Kapp saw the effort curl past his left post and fell backward to the ground in a sigh of relief.

Chances continued for Butler, whose passing was much improved in the second half. Creighton’s chances were few and far between in the second frame. As the half wore on, the Bluejays became intently focused on maintaining their shape and keeping the lead. The plan worked perfectly as Butler had half-chances, but never a clear-cut chance that should have leveled the game. Kapp continued to collect crosses and organize his backline, something the senior transfer from Boston College has done all season.

The game ended frantically in the closing minute. The crowd stood to give the Bluejays the needed added boost, who attempted to clear the ball downfield repeatedly to waste time. Butler did muster a shot in the closing seconds as they wiggled their way into the left-hand side of Creighton’s box. A close shot from six yards out nearly caught the inside of Kapp’s bottom right-hand corner of goal. However, it wasn’t to be for Butler as the shot whistled past and slammed into the concrete wall as the final whistle blew.

The win moves Creighton to first place in the conference and gives the Bluejays a resume-boosting win against No. 9 Butler. The Bluejays get little time to rest as they head to Tulsa, Oklahoma to take on the Golden Hurricane of Tulsa on Tuesday. That game is Creighton’s last non-conference game of the season before they finish the year with three of their next five games at home against Big East competition. Each of the remaining conference games can be seen on the Big East Digital Network.

Quotes from Elmar Bolowich:

“Very, very good first half on our part where we controlled most of the game. We didn’t really give them any open looks. I think in the second half they were a lot more active. They increased the tempo, they threw numbers forward, and made it a little bit more difficult on us. We defended more than we like to, and didn’t run our counters properly to score that second goal that would eventually break the ice.”

“We let them hang in and let them hang in, and at the end you normally pay the price, but we got out of it today. We had a couple of dicey situations there in front of our goal where maybe if they put one in the momentum changes, but I thought defensively we still played strong. The guys did a really good job of covering for one another. In the end you can say one way or another they were better in the second half, but I thought defensively we were good enough to keep it a shutout.”

“I think the entire back four did a great job. They were drifting, they were moving players around, their No. 10 was floating all over the place. We had to keep track of them, and the guys really didn’t lose their focus. We were always on them when they had the ball, so we didn’t really give them open looks.”

“The issue wasn’t necessarily clearing balls. The issue is to move off the ball so we can then possess and we can make them defend on the other side. We made it way too easy; we banged the ball forward, which means we lost it, and then we defended again. We were constantly for ten minutes defending, which is not the point. We are just not mature enough at the moment to figure that out — always a learning experience. You come back from this game and you say we have to learn, we have to get better, because eventually another team may punish us for that.”

“We trained a little bit on our set pieces, and for Joel it was just a matter of relaxing and putting that ball right where he wanted it.”

Quotes from Creighton forward Riggs Lennon:

“We’d been practicing [corner kicks] throughout the week. Joel hit a really good ball in, we had a couple of guys as decoys to get around, I got an opening, and Joel put it right on my head and I just tried to convert.”

“We just got an early goal and had to hold on. It wasn’t pretty, but it was a good result for us.”

“We finally decided on who was going to take the set pieces and what our roles are. Each player has taken to their role, and if everyone does their job and we execute right, we’re pretty dangerous. We’ve got some big guys, some strong players, so I think it creates a good chance for us to get a goal.”

“It’s unbelievable. I can’t thank Elmar enough for letting me get a chance in my senior year. It’s tough to take in a senior transfer, but he really gave me a chance and supported me fully. Even throughout the beginning of the season when I wasn’t hitting my groove he stayed with me, and I’ve just made the most of my opportunity. I’m just thankful to be here at Creighton, to have the team that we have, and to get the chances I’m getting.”

Quotes from Creighton’s Lucas Stauffer:

“A bit chaotic, but I think that shows our grit and our team camaraderie. We came together and killed the game off for the last ten minutes.”

“In regards to Kapp, probably in the last four games he’s been our reason for winning. He’s stood on his head for us. Tonight we tried to do him a favor and cut them out. Every game we want to try and negate scoring opportunities, and when we mess up Kapp is there to clean up the mess.”

“We just beat the sixth-ranked RPI team in the country, so for us that’s awesome. They were a fantastic team, they moved the ball extremely well. You could tell they had a game plan, and you could tell they were very well-coached, but at the end of the day we came away with three points. That really helps us nationally and in the Big East.”

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