Blues winger Zack Elbouzedi fired home the winning goal to give Waterford three vital points against UCD in the SSC Airtricity Premier League at the RSC on Friday night last.
It was UCD that started the game on the front foot with Neil Farrugia causing problems to the Blues defence and he created a chance for himself on 13 minutes when he took a pass from Gary O’Neill, but his shot was parried away by Matt Connor.
On 17 minutes, Farrugia got a free out after another pass from O’Neill only to be denied by a fine Matt Connor save as the Students took up the early running. Good defending by UCD centreback, Josh Collins came to his side’s rescue twice in the space of five minutes when he firstly deflected a goal-bound effort from Bastien Héry over the crossbar before he blocked a certain Blues goal when throwing his body in front of a Cory Galvin shot.
The winning goal came on 36 minutes, when Rory Feely played the ball into the path of Cory Galvin, who in turn picked out Zack Elbouzedi wide on the left and he drilled a low left-footed shot to the far corner of the net.
The Blues took control of the game at this point and should have gone into the half time break two up. On 39 minutes Bastian Héry played the ball into the feet Cory Galvin, the winger took the ball to the edge of the box but he dragged his shot just wide of the far post. Galvin was in the action again on 43 minutes, he turned just inside the box but his right foot shot was turned around the far past by UCD keeper Kearns.
As the second half got under way JJ Lunney went close to giving the Blues a second goal but his strike on the run just cleared the bar. Aaron Drinan went on a good run to set up Zack Elbouzedi on 59 minutes, but his left foot strike was matched by a stunning Conor Kearns save.
Back came UCD to create a couple of half chances to level the tie when Neil Farrugia got his head on the end of a Liam Scales cross on 72 minutes only for Connor to catch the ball underneath the bar before Conor Davis missed a big chance five minutes later when shooting straight at the keeper from close-range. Izzy Akinade did have a chance to wrap up all three points for the Blues in injury time when he raced onto a pass from Aaron Drinan, but his low shot from the right-side of the penalty area was well saved by Conor Kearns.
Blues manager Alan Reynolds “I think that on chances tonight, we deserved it, maybe on possession however they had more of it. I watched them play a lot recently and every game they play, they dominate possession. I saw them against Shamrock Rovers and Cork City in their last two games.
“We were allowing them possession in certain areas, leaving them go wide, and our game plan was to catch them on the counter-attack. Like I said, it was a bit more clinical in front of goal we could have won a lot easier. That’s the thing really.
“You look at it and see that they’ve got more of the game, but let’s be honest, we could have had another three goals near the end. Their keeper, who is a top-class keeper, makes three top saves and kept them in the game.
“We now have a break for four or five weeks. It will allow us the chance to get players like Kenny Browne, Kevin Lynch and Dean Walsh back fit. We have players that have played a lot of games and it’s a great opportunity for both Zack Elbouzedi and Aaron Drinan to represent their country.
WATERFORD FC: Matt Connor, Rory Feely, Maxi Kouogun, Damien Delaney, Georgie Poynton, JJ Lunney, Karolis Chvedukas (Shane Griffin `89), Bastien Héry, Cory Galvin (Izzy Akinade `67), Zack Elbouzedi (Scott Twine `84), Aaron Drinan
UCD: Conor Kearns, Liam Scales, Josh Collins, Neil Farrugia, Gary O’Neill, Jason McClelland (Danu Bishop `87), Richie O’Farrell, Sean McDonald, Conor Davis (Yoyo Mahdy `78), Paul Doyle (Dara Keane `87), Evan Farrell
Referee: Rob Hennessy (Limerick)