The Big Red charged out of the gate Saturday, catching Yale off guard with its physicality and speed. After scoring two goals in the first half, it shut down a furious Yale rally in the second to hold the score 2-0 and clinch the top spot in the Ivy League.

The Bulldogs had a difficult time containing aggressive Cornell midfielder and captin Jimmy Lannon. He earned a yellow card in the first 90 seconds of play and looked dangerous on every single possession he took up the left sideline. Lannon assisted on both of Cornell’s goals, taking advantage of a normally disciplined Yale defense that on Saturday was out of position for much of the first half. The result was predictable: Cornell had close, alarming shots that were too much for goalkeeper Bobby Thalman ’13 to handle.

“Their team fights for everything,” Thalman said after the game. “They finished their chances.”

The Elis came out angry in the second half. Even though it dominated time of possession, Yale (2-1-0 Ivy) couldn’t create a viable threat to Big Red’s net. Cornell (3-0-0 Ivy) denied the Bulldogs their traditional avenues of attack, as Max McKiernan ’14 and Brad Rose ’12 — two of Yale’s most potent offensive weapons — could only watch in frustration as they were repeatedly pushed off the ball by heavier Cornell defenders.

To compensate Yale used Milan Tica ’13 — a 6’4” 200 lb defender — extensively during the second half, even to challenge throw-ins and goal-kicks on the Big Red side. But no one on the Yale offense had any real answer to the disciplined back-line of Cornell.

“We got sucked into their style of play,” Tica said after the game. “They were a high energy, aggressive team … they’ve figured out their style.”

Tica added that Cornell has not been a historically good team. This will be the Big Red’s first winning season since 2001. The team that went 1-15 three years ago, and 0-5-2 in conference last season, is now on an eleven-game unbeaten streak. Cornell goalkeeper Rick Pflasterer explained the turnaround in the simplest way he could: just hard work.

“We didn’t feel like we’ve done our best,” Pflasterer said. “Our coach has us looking forward.”

Pflasterer said the Yale attack was one of the strongest the team had seen all season, although Cornell knew what to expect from the Elis: size mismatches in the box and dangerous throw-ins from Marcus DiLallo ’12. Adding to Pflasterer’s sense of familiarity was Pflasterer’s hometown acquaintance, Ann Arbor native forward Peter Jacobson ’14. One of Pflasterer’s four saves came off a Jacobson shot in the second half.

Yale gets a short turnaround this week as it travels to Fairfield to play Sacred Heart on Wednesday for its final non-conference game of the year. After that, Ivy play continues this Saturday when the Bulldogs travel to a reeling Penn (1-2-0). Pflasterer, who faced the Quakers in Cornell’s 1-0 Ivy-opening win, said the Yale team has greater size, but needs to be wary of Penn’s speed and directness on the offensive.

For Thalman, the rest of the season can’t come soon enough.

“This motivates us even more,” Thalman said of the loss. “It gives us a little reality check.”

Kick-off at Sacred Heart is scheduled for 8 p.m. this Wednesday.