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Men’s soccer earns thrilling 2-2 draw against No. 10 Pittsburgh

The Cavaliers scored two goals in the second half, including one with under five seconds remaining, to stun the Panthers

<p>The Cavaliers earned one of their best results of the season with a draw against a top-10 opponent.</p>

The Cavaliers earned one of their best results of the season with a draw against a top-10 opponent.

The Virginia men’s soccer team tied 2-2 with No. 10 Pittsburgh Friday night at Klöckner Stadium. The Panthers (8-4-1, 4-2-1 ACC) led 2-0 at halftime, but the Cavaliers (5-7-3, 2-4-1 ACC) used a big second-half rally to earn a draw.

It was a slow start to the match, as both teams were feeling each other out for the first 15 minutes. The first big chance of the match came in the 16th minute, when Pittsburgh had two quick shots in succession from junior midfielder Valentin Noel and freshman midfielder Guilherme Feitosa. However, Virginia sophomore goalkeeper Holden Brown saved both attempts to keep the game scoreless.

The Cavaliers were held without a shot for nearly 30 minutes, as they struggled to create anything against the Panthers’ defense. Virginia freshman midfielder Erick Kilosho fired an attempt from outside the box in the 29th minute, but graduate goalkeeper Nico Campuzano comfortably saved Virginia’s first shot on target. Sophomore forward Leo Afonso tested Campuzano again a few minutes later, but he was able to make another save.

Pittsburgh finally broke through with a goal from Noel in the 35th minute. The Panthers played a ball into the box and it bounced around before Noel gathered it and fired a shot past Brown to give his team the lead. Pittsburgh nearly added to its lead a few minutes later, but a header from junior defender Mohammad Abualnadi was saved off of the line by freshman midfielder Asparuh Slavov.

Virginia thought it had an equalizer in the 43rd minute after Afonso put the ball in the back of the net, but he was ruled offside and the goal did not stand. The Cavaliers seemed to be deflated after the goal was taken away, and the Panthers took advantage by scoring another goal with less than 30 seconds remaining in the half. Noel tallied his second goal of the match, and Pittsburgh headed into the break with a 2-0 lead. Pittsburgh outshot Virginia 6-3 in the first half and recorded five corner kicks compared to just one for the Cavaliers.

Virginia caught a break early in the second half, as a handball by Abualnadi in the box awarded the Cavaliers a penalty kick. Afonso stepped up the spot and slotted the ball past Campuzano to put the Cavaliers on the board and cut the deficit to 2-1 with over 30 minutes remaining in the match.

Virginia had a good chance at an equalizer in the 69th minute, but Campuzano kept Pittsburgh ahead after making a big stop with his legs on an attempt from sophomore midfielder Kaya Ignacio. The Cavaliers kept up the pressure and nearly scored again just minutes later, but a header from Afonso went just over the crossbar. Pittsburgh started to retake momentum toward the end of the game, but Brown kept Virginia in the game by making a number of key saves.

Pittsburgh went down to 10 men in the 88th minute after Abualnadi received a second yellow card and was ejected. It did not seem like there would be enough time for Virginia to mount a rally, but the Cavaliers kept pushing and earned a corner kick with five seconds remaining. Freshman defender Paul Wiese played the ball in and found the head of junior defender William Citron, who was able to guide the ball into the back of the net and force overtime.

Virginia carried its momentum into overtime and nearly found a winner within the first three minutes, but a shot from freshman forward Ank Nibogora sailed just wide of the goalpost. The Cavaliers thought they had a winner from Afonso in the second overtime period, but he had another goal ruled out for offside and the teams kept playing. Slavov had one final chance for the Cavaliers in the last minute, but Campuzano came up with another big save and the match ended in a 2-2 draw.

The final statistics ended up fairly even, as Pittsburgh edged Virginia 19-18 in shots and 7-6 in corner kicks. Brown came up with nine saves in the match, while Campuzano tallied six for the Panthers.

“I’m happy with the response after we went down two goals at halftime,” Coach George Gelnovatch said. “They did a great job of pushing until the very end to get the equalizer at the end of regulation and until the final seconds to try and get the win in overtime.”

Virginia returns to action Monday evening with its final home match of the season against non-conference opponent Mary Washington. The match is set to kick off at 5 p.m.

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