PITTSBURGH — No. 10 Pitt took on Virginia in their ACC home opener on Friday night in front of a packed crowd. That crowd left the stadium disheartened, as Pitt committed defensive errors and missed opportunities to score, leading to a 3-1 loss.
The Panthers’ (5-3-1 overall, 2-2 ACC) loss to the Cavaliers (7-3 overall, 3-1 ACC) is the second straight loss for the team and their third straight game without a win. It is also the first home loss for the Panthers since a 2-0 defeat to Notre Dame in the ACC semifinals and the first regular season home loss since Oct. 4, 2019 when they lost 2-1 to then ranked No. 20 UNC. It is also the first loss against the Cavaliers for the Panthers since 2018.
“We had some great moments,” Panthers head coach Jay Vidovich said on the game. “Quality was off in the box again. Our attacking third was off. We weren’t able to capitalize. Moments we took some plays off that we’re going to have to work on. Not sharp enough. Not enough minutes together, but at the same I saw a lot of good things from the guys. Very disappointed.”
Virginia took the first shot of the game in just the second minute, taking advantage of Pitt lapses defensively.
Junior forward Leo Afonso drove into the box and passed it to junior forward Phillip Horton. Horton immediately shot it, but Panthers senior goalkeeper Joe van der Sar made the initial kick save. Cavaliers junior midfielder Daniel Mangarov took another shot that graduate defender Henrique Gallina deflected with his chest. Horton got on to that deflection and put it in the back of the net to give the Cavaliers the lead.
The Panthers almost immediately responded in the third minute. Junior midfielder Filip Mirkovic found himself with a plethora of space outside of the box. He then took a shot on, which sailed over Cavaliers goalkeeper, junior Holden Brown, and hit the cross bar. Senior midfielder Valentin Noel ran to score the goal, but his shot deflected for a corner.
Virginia almost doubled their lead in the 15th minute, when sophomore defender Paul Wiese took a shot on inside the box. His shot ended up going wide left, signaling a big missed opportunity for the road team.
The game didn’t see much action until Cavaliers senior defender Andreas Ueland took down Panthers sophomore defender Mateo Maillefaud in the 28th minute, receiving a yellow card.
Right after that, Noel ran in the middle of the park and with no Virginia stepping up to him, he decided to take a shot from distance. The shot curled past Brown, into the bottom right corner of the net, tying the game up at one for Pitt.
A bad turnover from Gallina gave Cavaliers sophomore forward Kome Ubogu possession in the 38th minute. He ran into the box and Gallina appeared to foul him, prompting the referee to call for a penalty. Replay showed that Gallina got the ball and the Ubogu kicked his back heel, which made him fall down.
Afonso took the penalty and blasted it off the cross bar. Wiese then got a head on the rebound, but it went out for a goal kick, keeping the score level at one.
The Panthers almost took the lead in the 44th minute, as Mirkovic found Maillefaud with space in the box, but his shot went right at Holden for an easy save.
Pitt got two good chances in the early stages of the second half to put pressure on Virginia defensively.
On a corner in the 53rd minute, junior forward Bertin Jacquesson received the pass and delivered a great ball into the box. Sophomore midfielder Michael Sullivan headed the pass, but it went wide as no other Pitt player was in the box.
Mirkovic then made a short pass to Jacquesson in the box in the 56th minute. With time and space, he took a shot on that just missed Sullivan, who slid in to try and tap it in at the left post.
The Cavaliers then took advantage of some poor defense from the Panthers. Horton moved down the right hand side and then inside the box. He delivered a pass that found Afonso, who then put in a short pass for first-year defender Reese Miller. Miller scored a beautiful goal with the curled shot from the inside of his left foot to put the Cavaliers back on top in the 61st minute.
Pitt then created two good chances to score, but couldn’t convert on either of them.
Substitute first-year defender Noah Hall shot on goal in the 71st minute, but Brown kicked it out. Jacquesson delivered a cross into the box that just went over a wide open Noel in front of goal a minute later.
Maillefaud, under pressure from Afonso, tried to pass it back to his keeper. His pass went far away from any Pitt defender or Van Der Sar and Horton sprang at the opportunity. He took the shot almost immediately and put it in the back of the net, catching out an off balanced Van der Sar for the third Virginia goal of the game.
Pitt put in two last chances to score towards the end of the match, but again failed to finish in the final third.
Jacquesson continued to pose a threat and put a cross in for Hall in the 77th minute. Brown continued to star for Virginia, kicking the ball out. Mirkovic took a shot on the rebound, but the defense cleared it.
Mirkovic almost scored a brilliant curling shot in the 80th minute, but Brown saved it with an outstretched right glove to push it out for a corner.
The Panthers didn’t find any serious chance the rest of the way, allowing the Cavaliers to take the victory. It ends as the first game that they did not score two or more goals at home this season.
Pitt will look to rebound next Friday as they take on a tough Clemson side at Ambrose Urbanic Field.
“Recover the next few days and we’ll start working,” Vidovich said. “Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday so we’ve got some time to do some work and that’ll be positive. I think we made some progress since Louisville. So we’ll get back to work and see if we can clean up some of these actions.”