HARTFORD — It was ugly, but it was a win.

The men’s soccer team battled its way to its fourth straight win as the Bulldogs defeated Constitution State-rival University of Hartford, 1-0, last night at Al-Marzook Field in Hartford. Midfielder Jordan Rieger ’07 scored the only goal in a poorly played game in which neither team could hold onto the ball or capitalize on possessions.

“It wasn’t one of our best games, but we did what we had to do to win and that’s all that matters,” Rieger said. “We got the result.”

Last night’s game marked the 25th anniversary of games between Yale (6-8, 3-1 Ivy) and Hartford (2-9-4). The Bulldogs lead the all-time series 15-8-2.

“Our games with Hartford are always fiercely contested,” Yale head coach Brian Tompkins said. “It’s always very competitive and difficult to play.”

The Bulldogs posted the game’s only goal at 12:25. The Hawks’ defense knocked the ball out of bounds at their end line, awarding Yale a corner kick. Captain Ryan Raybould ’05 served the ball into the box to defender Jake Miller ’07. Miller headed the ball to Rieger, who was positioned in front of the Hawks’ undefended far post. Rieger settled the ball and fired a shot past Hartford goalkeeper Ryan Carr.

“As the ball was coming, I remembered all the work that I’ve done with [forward Alex Munns ’07], and him telling me to stay focused on the goal while I was shooting,” Rieger said.

In the first half of the game, Yale struggled mightily on defense. The Bulldogs gave the Hawks numerous scoring opportunities, allowing through balls and crosses from the corners.

But after the break, the Bulldogs regrouped to allow the Hawks just three shots on goal in the second half.

“[Hartford was] very dangerous in the first half,” Tompkins said. “In the second half, our collective defense improved and we limited their opportunities to score.”

The Hawks’ best chance to tie the game came 10 minutes into the second half. Hartford midfielder Sean Reynolds lined up a shot at Eli keeper Erik Geiger ’08 from about 25 yards out. Just when the ball looked as though it would sneak over Geiger’s outreached hands into the net, the freshman goaltender leapt into the air and deflected the shot over the crossbar.

The play at midfield proved to be the deciding factor last night. Midfielders Andrew Dealy ’05 and Raybould dominated the center of the field and kept the Yale offense organized.

“Raybould and Dealy were the difference in the game,” Hartford head coach Jim Evans said. “They stood out above everyone else. That’s probably what made the difference for Yale.”

Eli goalkeepers Matt Aleksinas ’06 and Geiger combined in goal to post the Elis’ fourth shutout this season. Aleksinas, who started the game, made two difficult one-on-one saves. Geiger, who saw his first minutes of collegiate playing time during the second half of last night’s game, also had two saves.

The Bulldogs return to action Saturday, when they take on Columbia at Soccer-Lacrosse Stadium.

“They have quite a bit of individual talent,” Tompkins said of the Lions. “They’re as dangerous an offensive team as any in the league. We’ll need to be really sharp and be playing our best to get a win on Saturday.”