DURHAM, N.C.—Duke junior Nick Palodichuk put a cross into the back of the net less than five minutes into the second half to lift the Blue Devils to a 1-0 victory over visiting Georgia Southern in men’s soccer action this evening. The Blue Devils dominated the action, firing 22 shots in the 90-minute contest.
Duke (2-1-1) outshot the Eagles 22-13 for the game, including 15-2 in the opening 45 minutes, but it was Blue Devil goalkeeper Alex Long coming up with big plays down the stretch to help preserve the 1-0 shutout. Long made a career-high eight saves, including a diving stop with 15 seconds left, as he posted his second shutout of the season and ninth of his career.
“I’m really happy with the clean sheet,” said head coach John Kerr. “It got especially scary down the end when they put a lot of pressure on us and they had some good opening. Alex [Long] did great to make that save at the end.”
The Blue Devils controlled the run of play in the opening half, but were unable to capitalize on any of the 15 shots. With its early chances missing the mark, Duke started to create quality scoring looks in the final 10 minutes.
Coming off the bench in the 32nd minute, Luis Rendon provided an instant spark for the Blue Devils. The sophomore speedster had a great look stopped by Georgia Southern (1-2-0) goalkeeper Neal Bates just minutes after coming off. Less than a minute later, Rendon wreaked havoc again on the left wing and hit the crossbar.
“I’m disappointed that we created so many opportunities that we didn’t convert,” Kerr said. “That’s been the song so far this season is that we’re pretty good offensively at creating some chances, but we just can’t finish them off.”
The woodwork saved the Eagles again minutes later after a Brody Huitema header bounced off the near post and sent the two squads into the locker room even at 0-0.
Duke needed just four minutes in the second half to break through with the go-ahead goal from Palodichuk. Sophomore Zach Mathers collected the ball on the left side of the 18-yard box and sent a ball to the back post where Palodichuk calmly put it past Neal for the 1-0 lead.
Georgia Southern rallied behind the 1-0 deficit and pressed forward and started to generate scoring chances. The Eagles had 10 shots in the final 40 minutes, including a rifle from 15 yards with 15 seconds remaining that Long just got his outstretched hand on.
“He had a good game overall,” Kerr said. “We’re happy with his approach. He’s solid back there, talking, very safe with his handling and good distribution as well to start some of our attacks.”
Duke returns to action at home Friday when it welcomes ACC foe Virginia Tech. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. at Koskinen Stadium.
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