Although the scoreboard read 3-1 in favor of the Fairfield Stags at the end of yesterday’s men’s soccer game, any spectator would argue the actual game read a little differently.

Last night, the Bulldogs (4-6-1) fought a tough battle against the No. 17 Stags (7-2-1) at Reese Stadium. Ninety intense minutes of solid attack and relentless pressure went without reward due to a few costly defensive mistakes and some influential calls by the referee.

“We passed very well, and when we played with patience, we were very dangerous,” Yale head coach Brian Tompkins said. “Our strategy worked well for the most part, but we were just on the wrong end of some very subjective refereeing.”

With an aggressive start, the Bulldogs utilized their speed and quick touches to get around the large Fairfield defense. Employing passing combinations and fast transitions into offense, the Elis stuck to their strategy of avoiding the long ball technique that their opponents favored.

“Fairfield likes to play long balls in the air, and our strategy was to do the exact opposite,” Tompkins said. “We played the ball on the ground, passed it, and created combinations.”

Despite the team’s continuous hard work, the referee called a penalty kick against the Bulldogs in the 18th minute of play, and Fairfield’s Alex Cunliffe capitalized with a goal past keeper Erik Geiger ’08 to put the Stags ahead, 1-0. The Bulldogs continued to possess the ball and the clock ticked down to half time without any change in score.

At the blow of the whistle signaling the second half, the Bulldogs regained momentum in hopes of quickly tying the game back up. Winning tackles and taking numerous shots, the Elis played with intensity and produced many chances on goal in the final third.

“In the second half, we came out strong and responded well,” captain Jordan Rieger ’07 said. “We played well, moving the ball and creating a lot of opportunities.”

After coming close several times, the Bulldogs finally scored in the 53rd minute when midfielder Markus Jackson ’09 played a ball over the defense to midfielder James Stewart ’07, who chipped the ball past the Stags goalkeeper and into the back of the net. With the scoreboard evened up, the speed of play rose and players on both teams went after the ball even more aggressively.

A breakdown in the defense in the 61st minute led Fairfield forward Paul McQuade to cross the ball to forward Christian Uy, who volleyed it past Geiger to put the Stags up 2-1. Feeling the pressure to retaliate, Yale players kept up the attack despite many calls and yellow cards from the referee.

“Even though the referee disrupted our play, we kept control of the ball fairly well overall,” midfielder Casey Logan ’10 said.

Struggling to respond with another goal, the Bulldogs lost a little composure, as their ability to string together penetrating passes diminished. Another penalty kick goal by the Stags in the 72nd minute put the Elis in desperate need of a change in momentum. Not for lack of effort, the team was unable to counter the two goal deficit and ended with a disappointing loss.

“We kept our composure in the face of some harsh referee decisions,” Tompkins said. “In the end, we definitely deserved more than we got out of this game.”