Coming off of an upset of No. 3 Syracuse on the road Sept. 24, Virginia once again had an opportunity to make a statement, both to itself and the rest of the ACC. With a 3-1 win over No. 10 Pittsburgh (5-3-1, 2-2 ACC) Friday night, the Cavaliers (7-3-0, 3-1 ACC) vaulted to second of the ACC Coastal Division and put the rest of the conference on notice.
The Cavaliers wasted no time, opening the scoring in the first minute as junior forward Philip Horton fired a loose ball into the top left corner of the goal from point blank range.
Setting up the goal was junior forward Leo Afonso who drove down the left side into the box, making a nice move and feeding the ball in. Horton shot, but senior goalkeeper Joe van der Sar made a kick save. The ball fell to junior midfielder Daniel Mangarov, who ripped a shot through a sea of defenders which was ultimately saved by van der Sar. The ball fell right back to Horton who smashed it in for the early Cavalier lead.
Just after, the Panthers responded with a golden chance to tie in the third minute. Junior midfielder Filip Mirkovic shot from distance, but the ball rattled off the crossbar, keeping the score 1-0.
A great chance to make it 2-0 for Virginia came in the 14th minute when sophomore defender Paul Wiese found himself with space near the top of the box on the right side. Wiese unleashed a shot towards the bottom left corner, but it just drifted wide and out of bounds.
Through 25 minutes, the Cavaliers had four shots on goal and had held the Panthers to zero shots on goal themselves.
In the 27th minute, Pittsburgh senior midfielder Valentin Noel drove towards the box unguarded and curled a shot into the bottom right corner of the goal past junior goalkeeper Holden Brown. The shot was placed perfectly, and ignited the Pittsburgh crowd, shifting the momentum back to the Panthers as the game was tied at 1-1.
After 10 minutes of slow play, sophomore forward Kome Ubogu dribbled down the left side and won a penalty after seemingly being fouled by graduate student defender Henrique Gallina. Afonso stepped up to take the penalty kick and rattled the shot off of the crossbar. The ball rebounded into play but Wiese headed it over the net.
At the half, the game remained tied at 1-1 and Pittsburgh seemed to have momentum after the missed penalty and some decent chances towards the end of the half.
However, the second half was a different story and Virginia fought to get the win. The go-ahead goal came in the 61st minute after several Pittsburgh chances.
Horton drove down the right hand side of the field and slid the ball to Afonso who delicately tapped it to freshman defender Reese Miller. Miller hit the ball with the outside of his left foot and struck it into the back of the right corner of the goal, giving the Cavaliers the lead once again. It came as Miller’s first career goal and came at the perfect time.
Virginia silenced the crowd as Pittsburgh had been controlling the ball up until the Cavalier goal.
As the second half continued, the Virginia defense continued to weather the storm that was Pittsburgh’s offense. The Panthers had six corner kicks in the second half to the Cavaliers who had none. However, the Virginia defense stood tall.
The Cavalier offense wasn’t done yet, though, as a third goal came in the 73rd minute from Horton again. Maillefaud, being hounded by Afonso near midfield, turned towards his own net and hit a lofted pass in between two Pittsburgh defenders. Horton intelligently broke towards the ball and calmly shot the ball into the back of the net, doubling the Virginia lead to 3-1.
Horton was the key player on the field for Virginia Friday night, as he recorded five points with his two goals and assist on Miller’s goal.
Pittsburgh tried to claw its way back but couldn’t put the ball past Brown, who had six saves on the night.
The Panthers best chance at a comeback came in the 80th minute when Brown made a sensational save on a ball headed towards the top right corner. Mirkovic danced around the ball and shot at the top of the box hoping to cut the deficit to one, but Brown extended and stretched his arm out to get a piece of the ball and deflect the ball out for a corner.
With its seventh win of the year, Virginia has already eclipsed its win total from last season, when the Cavaliers were 6-9-3.
Virginia has back-to-back road wins against top-10 teams, as well as a three-game win streak for the first time since 2019. Meanwhile, the loss was Pittsburgh’s first regular season home loss since Oct. 4, 2019, when it fell to North Carolina.
Coach George Gelnovatch praised the team after the huge win.
“The past two results for this team have come against some of the best competition out there right now,” Gelnovatch said. “I am really proud of our guys and the way they continue to battle.”
Virginia has little break in action, as the Cavaliers will face No. 13 Denver at home in Charlottesville Tuesday. Kickoff is set for 6 p.m. and the game will be streamed on ACCNX