DURHAM, N.C.-Sixth-ranked North Carolina took advantage of a two-man advantage, scoring a pair of unanswered goals to escape Durham with a 2-1 victory over Duke in ACC men's soccer action this evening at Koskinen Stadium. The Blue Devils held a 1-0 lead until the 87th minute of the contest.
Duke sophomore Riley Wolfe registered the goal for the Blue Devils, while senior goalkeeper James Belshaw had five saves in the loss. Duke falls to 3-5-1 overall and 1-2-1 in ACC play.
"We were holding and then we get one guy sent off and then we're holding on and we get two sent off," head coach John Kerr said. "[North Carolina] was fortunate to get those two goals I thought tonight. I'm very proud of how they performed tonight."
The two squads played an even first half of soccer with North Carolina (7-1-1, 3-0-1 ACC) holding a slight 5-3 edge in shots. The Tar Heels had the best opportunity of the opening stanza as Raby George struck the post 11 minutes into the game.
Duke sophomore Nick Palodichuk, looking for the game's first goal, had two solid looks at goal midway through the half, but did not find the back of the net. Belshaw came up with a huge save in the 31st minute as he just tipped a Jordan Gafa shot over the crossbar.
Much of the play continued to be run through the middle of the field as the rivals headed into the locker room scoreless.
"The first half we were maybe a little bit lackluster, but I thought the second part of the first half we came alive a little bit and caused some problems and we got some confidence from it," Kerr said.
The Blue Devils came alive in the second half and took the 1-0 lead just 13 minutes into the period with a highlight reel strike from 18 yards to the right upper ninety by Wolfe for a the 1-0 lead. The tally was his second of the year and the second of his career against the Tar Heels.
"In the second half I thought we did well in terms of getting up field and creating some opportunities for ourselves and a wonderful finish by Riley Wolfe," Kerr said.
North Carolina continued to get forward, but was kept at bay by Duke's stalwart backline and Belshaw. The back four and Belshaw continually came up with big plays with the Nottingham, England native making big save after big save to finish with five for the evening.
"[The backline] did a great job and have done a great job all season long," Kerr said. "It's a difficult one to accept when you let them score two goals on you because you defended wonderfully the whole game. I have no complaints from them and no complaints from the whole team. I'm very proud of them."
The Blue Devils, holding a 1-0 lead after nearly 73 minutes of action, suffered a blow going down a man after a red card. North Carolina took advantage of the extra man and started to control the run of play. Duke, in search of its third shutout of the season, held the Tar Heels off until the Blue Devils had the misfortune of going down two players due to a second red card with 8:16 left.
North Carolina, remaining patient with a two-man advantage, registered the equalizer five minutes later with a shot from Cameron Brown from 20 yards that just slipped past Belshaw. Duke held the Tar Heels off in the final three minutes to force overtime for the second time this season.
The Tar Heels needed just 1:42 into the first overtime to capture their second consecutive golden goal victory. Gafa took advantage of a small opening in the Blue Devil defense and rifled a shot to the right upper 90 for the win.
North Carolina outshot Duke 14-4 for the game and had five corner kicks to the Blue Devils' two. Scott Goodwin had one save in the victory.
Duke continues ACC play next Friday, Oct. 5 at N.C. State. The game will be broadcast by Raycom Sports Network at 6:30 p.m.
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