EAST LANSING – Michigan State earned a monumental win Saturday night in front of a plethora of alumni, as the Spartans showcased a solid and composed display at DeMartin Stadium against the Ohio State Buckeyes.
Trailing 1-0 early in the first half, MSU came back and ended the game 3-1 thanks to an influential performance by Connor George and Farai Mutatu.
It was a quick homecoming for Michigan State, as the team faced Ohio State at home and will now go back on the road for three games.
It was a solid and conservative effort from both sides in the opening 15 minutes, and both teams looked to get good chances at goal. Ohio State started very strong and aggressive on and off the ball.
Olu Ogunwale and Nick Stone both were very active on the left flank in the first half for MSU, as they each created multiple opportunities.
At the 27th minute, Matteo Bennati of Ohio State headed a ball in from a corner delivered by Luke Kiley to give the Buckeyes a 1-0 lead.
The Spartans could not find many clear chances at goal early in the game. The Ohio State defense was very compact and disciplined, letting very few balls behind it.
MSU started to get more confident in the final third of the pitch late in the first half. Suddenly, a great goal from Farai Mutatu was struck at the 40th minute, as he finished a great cross from Connor George to tie the game at one goal apiece.
“We came out aggressive and we just kept pushing,” Mutatu said following the game. “We didn’t care who was scoring as long as we were scoring and winning.”
MSU headed into the half level at 1-1. It looked like an even game for both sides going into the final 45 minutes. Both teams were on par in the first half as the shot count was six to five in favor of MSU.
“We showed some good mental toughness,” head coach Damon Rensing said. “I think we were really strong at the end of the first half, and our goal was to keep wearing them down.”
MSU looked confident at the start of the second half. Early into the first half at the 50th minute, Connor George received a pass from Michael Miller and confidently finished it into the lower right corner of the net. The Spartans suddenly took the lead 2-1.
“It’s always good to get a win on your home field and it’s even better when you do it with people you love,” George said.
The Spartans did not settle there. A corner kick at the 55th minute from MSU was sent into the six-yard box and headed down by Patrick Nielsen to Michael Wetungu, who shot the ball in between a crowd of players and netted his first goal of the season. The Spartans joyously celebrated their third goal of the match.
“There was a lot to play for, we get a chance to move on to second place (in the Big Ten) and we get a chance to control our own destiny,” Rensing said.
The Spartans moved the ball around more in the final third of the pitch and subsequently created more chances at goal knowing that they were confident with their ability.
The last minutes of the game consisted of MSU controlling possession and defending in key situations. The Spartans closed the game in a controlled fashion that left the players overwhelmed with joy at the end of the 90 minutes.
“We get a little bit of momentum and we have Oakland next, so it’s a tricky one being a non-conference, so we have a chance to assess where we are,” Rensing said.
The Spartans will begin a three-game road trip that includes Oakland on Oct. 22, then Northwestern and Michigan.
Contact Luca Melloni at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @mellonluca.