DURHAM, N.C.—Fifth-ranked North Carolina scored in the 56th minute en route to a 1-0 victory over No. 14 Duke in ACC men’s soccer action Tuesday evening. The 1-0 win was the fifth for the Tar Heels this season and marked the fifth straight year the rivalry game has been decided by a single goal.
“They are a darn good team and easily the best team we’ve played this year,” said head coach John Kerr. “It’s tough keeping them contained because they have so many good talented players and they are up for it. I thought our guys did a really good job containing them for the most part. I’m proud of them and hopefully we’ll get a chance to see them again in the ACC Tournament.”
Duke (9-5-1, 4-3-0) started well in possessing the ball in search of ways in behind the stifling North Carolina defense. A well-played through ball to Daniele Proch in the opening minutes looked to be dangerous before the assistant referee called offside against the Duke leading scorer.
Minutes later rookie Issa Rayyan, like he has done all season, turned in a spectacular individual effort in beating Tar Heel defenders over the course of 30 yards and getting a look at goal. His shot from the right side of the box was well covered by North Carolina goalkeeper James Pyle.
The Tar Heels (12-2-1, 6-1-0) started to get into the game more as the half progressed, but organized defense from the Blue Devils kept North Carolina without a shot for nearly 40 minutes. Jelani Pieters got the first shot of the night for the Tar Heels, but Duke goalie Will Pulisic was ready for the easy save.
In the waning minutes of the first half, junior Nicolas Macri nearly put Duke up 1-0 with a header towards the near post. Pyle got to the ball just in time to make the save and send the teams into the locker room scoreless.
The second half provide to be much of the same with both defenses staying steady and compact, keeping shots to a minimum.
Just over 10 minutes into the half a flighted ball from North Carolina was headed up by Duke defender Matthias Frick. The ball took a fortuitous bounce for the Tar Heels as Frick lost it in the air and Jack Skahan took advantage and hit the ball over Pulisic’s head from the top of the 18 as Duke scrambled to clear it away.
The Blue Devils battled tough throughout the final 35 minutes, but the Tar Heel defense, which had only allowed three goals in ACC play this season, was up to the challenge. Duke pressed forward and Proch had another fabulous take that missed wide. Pyle did well on corner kicks and set pieces and Duke just couldn’t quite get on the end of anything around the goal as it was held scoreless for the fifth time this season.
Duke hits the road to close out ACC play at Virginia Tech. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m., in Blacksburg on ACC Network Extra.