DURHAM, N.C.-The Duke men's soccer team stretched its home win streak to three games tonight with a 2-0 victory over Clemson in the Blue Devils' ACC home opener. Duke got a pair of goals from Riley Wolfe and James Belshaw in the second half to secure the crucial league win.
The Blue Devils, improving to 3-3-0 overall and 1-1-0 in ACC play, posted their second consecutive shutout of the season. Clemson falls to 1-4-2 and 0-1-1 in conference action for the year. Duke closes out its three-game homestand Tuesday night against UNC Greensboro.
"This was huge, we needed the win," head coach John Kerr said. "The performance wasn't perfect, but it was a really good defensive performance and we conjured up some goals in the second half and we'll take it."
Wolfe netted his first goal of the 2012 campaign, while Belshaw had a fantastic night in goal, making six saves for the second shutout of the season and icing the victory with a penalty kick goal. The goal was the first of his career.
"I took my first [penalty kick] last year and missed," Belshaw said. "It feels good to finish one. Coach [Kerr] asked me if I still wanted to take one. I think I was on my last chance, but I scored it so hopefully I'll be on them from now on. It's nice to get a goal."
The first half featured a lot of play in the midfield until Duke started to take control midway through the stanza. The Blue Devils, stringing passes together and keeping possession, generated a few quality opportunities that just missed the mark. Junior Sebastien Ibeagha had great look at goal as he pushed forward out of the back and put a shot just wide right of the net. Sophomore Nick Palodichuk, active up top for the Blue Devils, also had some good looks that missed the frame and sent Duke into the locker room scoreless.
The momentum shifted in favor of the Tigers late in the first half, but the stalwart Duke backline weathered the storm and kept Clemson off the board to go into halftime even at 0-0. Both teams registered five shots in the opening 45 minutes of play with Belshaw making two stops.
"We had some really good moments where we were up for it and then other moments where we were second best and we have to correct that as we move forward," Kerr said. "But overall I'm very pleased with the effort and the attitude. It was a good performance, especially getting the clean sheet was really good for us."
Duke, in search of a similar offensive performance as Tuesday when it tallied three unanswered goals, came out in the second half more aggressive. The Tigers, however, matched that intensity and had the better of play in the early going.
Clemson nearly found the back of the net in the 65th minute as Belshaw got a glove on a point-blank shot, his sixth save of the night. Belshaw made four saves in the second half, all of which game in the opening 20 minutes.
The Blue Devils remained resilient and broke through with the game's first goal in the 68th minute. After attacking down both the left and right flanks all night, freshman Ryan Thompson earned a throw-in deep in Clemson's defensive third. Dangerous on throw-ins, Thompson launched the ball into the box where it sneaked through to the back post where Wolfe knocked it home for the 1-0 lead. The goal was Wolfe's second of his career, while Thompson posted his second assist of the year.
"It was a huge relief [to get that goal]," Wolfe said. "It kind of broke us through. We were saying at halftime that once we get the first the second will come."
It was all Duke after Wolfe's goal and the Blue Devils were dangerous again as Zach Mather's made his way into the box and had his shot blocked on the goal line. A handball was whistled on Clemson, giving the Blue Devils the penalty kick chance. Belshaw calmly came up the field and buried the shot for the 2-0 lead.
The Blue Devils stayed strong defensively to close out the final 20 minutes to post the clean sheet and earn the crucial three points in league action.
Both teams finished with nine shots apiece, while Clemson edged the Blue Devils 6-5 in corner kicks. Chris Glodack made one save in his first outing for the Tigers, while Belshaw earned his first shutout of the year.
Duke hosts UNC Greensboro in the final game of the three-game homestand, Tuesday, Sept. 18 at 7 p.m. The Blue Devils travel to Wake Forest for their next ACC contest, Sept. 21.