No. 10 Pitt hosted No. 14 Akron in their third top 25 match at home this season. The match didn’t disappoint for spectators, as Pitt came back to take the lead, 3-2 before Akron tied it, making it the first tie, 3-3, for Pitt this season.
The Panthers (5-1-1) outshot the Zips (4-1-2) 18-9 and missed chances towards the end that would’ve won the match. Head coach Jay Vidovich said the game against Akron turned out to be a great test for his team and a back-and-forth fixture that anyone could’ve taken.
“Credit to Akron,” Vidovich said. “They came out, they pressed like crazy, they put balls in the channel against us, they got a counter attack there and they manufactured some goals. Proud of the guys. Not many teams can fight back from a 2-0 deficit and take the lead. Once again we gave up a sloppy goal. We had several chances to win the game, but our quality wasn’t in front of the goal. It wasn’t what we needed it to be.”
Pitt almost scored in the seventh minute as junior forward Bertin Jacquesson delivered a great ball to graduate forward Josh Luchini, but he missed it just left with his left foot.
Both players almost combined to score again in the 19th minute, with Jacquesson putting in a great cross, which Luchini attempted a diving header. He got his head to the ball, but it again just went wide left.
Akron took advantage of some poor Pitt defending to start the game and took the lead in the 10th minute. Pitt graduate midfielder Rodrigo Almeida lost the ball, which Akron junior forward Ryan Kingsford took off him. Kingsford then used the outside of his right foot to deliver a great pass to a streaking senior midfielder Renato Kauzlaric. Kauzlaric then took the ball, used his momentum to move past Pitt’s line and slotted it past Pitt senior goalkeeper Joe Van Der Sar.
The Zips doubled their lead in the 18th minute, capitalizing again on poor defense from the Panthers. Zips Sophomore midfielder Dyson Clapier took the ball just ahead of the halfway line and ran right through the Panthers defenders, who failed to step to him. Clapier, with time and space, shot right past Van Der Sar for another easy goal.
Pitt continued to struggle, as they lost the ball constantly, which prohibited them from creating rhythm and chances to score.
Head coach Jay Vidovich made a switch, taking off Luchini for first-year defender Noah Hall in the 37th minute.
Hall completely changed the game for the Panthers, using his speed and agility to get in and behind defenders, with or without the ball.
With the first half winding down, Pitt finally scored to cut into the lead in the 44th minute. Junior midfielder Filip Mirkovic took the corner and found senior defender Mohammad Abualnadi for a header that found its way into the left corner of the goal. This goal marked the first time that Abualnadi scored for Pitt since he transferred from Notre Dame after the 2020-21 season.
The Panthers then scored again to level the game up with just one second left in the first half. Abualnadi tried to cross it in the box, but an Akron defender blocked it. He then got the ball again, put a light cross into the middle of the box, finding Mirkovic. Mirkovic, amazingly, found himself with no Akron defender on him and he shot with his left foot to put into the back of the net for the tying goal.
Mirkovic said on the two assists/goals between him and Abualnadi that they both have a good connection with each other and that they know each other from way back.
“From corners, I try to aim for the big guys and he’s one of them and off course he got on the end of it which is good,” Mirkovic said. “For me, I made that run in the box and he picked me out perfectly and of course that’s what the team needed to get the score back.”
Hall continued to show his value for Pitt in the second half and in the 50th minute, he scored off a corner from Mirkovic to give his team their first lead of the night at 3-2.
Hall said that, despite not being the tallest player, he went back post and realized that no Akron player marked him, allowing him to rise up and score the header. Growing up, he said that he loved Pitt and it was a “dream come true” to get that goal.
“Giving it my all,” Hall said on his game against Akron. “Trying my hardest. Listen to the coaches, listen to the players. Try to bring the energy back up. Focus on my role and do all I can to get us back onto the score sheet.”
The lead did not last long for the Panthers, as the Zips managed to string some passes together and worked to get in behind the Panthers defense.
Pitt managed to block both shots from Kingsford and Kauzlaric, but junior midfielder Johnny Fitzgerald laid it off in the box for sophomore midfielder Wan Kuzri Wan Kamal, who blasted it past Van Der Sar to tie the game at 3-3.
The Zips almost took the lead on what looked like another poor defensive effort from the Panthers, as a cross from sophomore midfielder reached Fitzgerald in the box for a tap in goal, but the linesman ruled it offside.
Pitt sophomore midfielder Michael Sullivan came on for Almeida in the 66th minute and almost made an immediate impact. Mirkovic found him with a cross in the box and he headed it right on the post, keeping the match level.
A push from Zips junior defender Joel Sangwa into the back of Luchini in the box led to the penalty cries from Panthers fans, players and the coaching staff, but the referee allowed play to go on.
As the game came into the final minutes, Pitt put all their efforts into scoring the potential winning goal.
After a foul on Jacquesson set up a free kick in the 87th minute, graduate defender Lucas Rosa stepped up to take it. He delivered a curling shot, that forced redshirt first-year goalkeeper Mitch Budler to make a great save with his left glove to push the ball out for a corner.
Jacquesson made one last chacne for the Panthers in the 89th minute. He held the ball up, turned his defender and left him on the ground and dribbled quickly down the right side. He then put a fast cross in across the face of goal, but defender Matteo Maillefaud missed it and it went through is legs for a throw in.
Pitt returns to ACC play this Friday with a trip to Louisville, looking to keep their perfect conference record alive.