DURHAM, N.C.—The 14th-ranked Blue Devils scored three first-half goals to cruise to the 3-1 victory over Pittsburgh in ACC men’s soccer action this evening at Koskinen Stadium. The win is the fourth in conference play for Duke and sent the seniors out in style as they played their final regular season Friday night game.
The Blue Devils improve to 9-4-1 overall and 4-2-0 in ACC play. The four victories match the total from a year ago with two league games remaining on the slate. Pittsburgh falls to 7-8-0 and 2-5-0 in league.
Duke got off to a fast start with a pair of textbook goals in the first 15 minutes. Rookie Issa Rayyan netted the first tally with an outstanding individual effort in the 10th minute, while junior Max Moser had the second five minutes later. Nicolas Macri capped the scoring with 51 seconds remaining in the opening session – his first career goal.
“We were disappointed with our performance on Tuesday,” said head coach John Kerr. “We knew it was an important game. It was senior night, another big ACC game and we wanted to bounce back quickly and we did.”
It’s hard to say which goal was the best as all three were phenomenal buildups and finishes. Rayyan sparked the offense when he collected the ball 35 yards from goal and outraced the Pittsburgh defense to the penalty box. A run from Daniele Proch drew attention away from Rayyan and allowed the rookie to beat three more Panther defenders and fire it past goalkeeper Johan Penaranda. The goal was his second of the season.
Five minutes later, Moser was the beneficiary of a perfect service from rookie Ian Murphy for the header goal. A good switch of fields to Murphy on the left side allowed the freshman time to set up his left-footed cross. He struck it perfectly, sending it to the back post on a rope for Moser to head home for his second goal of the year.
With Duke dominating play in the first half and drawing fouls around the box, it was Macri getting in on the action in the 45th minute. Kristofer Gardarsson stepped up on a set piece on the left corner of the penalty area 25 yards from goal and curled it into the near post where Macri got his head on it to beat Penaranda for his first career goal and a 3-0 lead at the half.
“It was great to see Nico get a reward for all of his hard work,” Kerr said. “He’s been working really hard in training and he gets his chance in the game, it’s nice to get the reward for all the work he’s put in.”
The second half was a different story as Duke struggled to get into a rhythm for much of the 45 minutes. Pitt got one goal back in the 58th minute with a textbook upper 90 finish from Edward Kizza. The Panthers tried to get another, but went down a man in the 67th minute, allowing for Duke to regain some momentum on the final 20 minutes.
The Blue Devils created a few good looks down the stretch, but couldn’t get one more on the board to finish with the 3-1 victory.
The teams combined for just six shots in the second half and only 17 for the game. Neither goalie made a save in the 90-minute affair.
Duke returns to host No. 5 North Carolina Tuesday, Oct. 23. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m., on ESPNU.