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No. 23 Pitt Finishes Regular Season with 1-1 Draw against Notre Dame

PITTSBURGH — No. 23 Pitt played a brilliant first half against Notre Dame at home on senior night. A red card changed the game and Pitt managed to hold on for a 1-1 draw to end the regular season.

The Panthers (7-3-5 overall, 3-2-3 ACC) outshot the Fighting Irish (8-6-2 overall, 3-4-1 ACC) 16-1 in the first half, but the Fighting Irish turned it around in the second half and outshot the Panthers, 17-5. This makes it the second straight draw for the Panthers against the Fighting Irish and the fourth straight game without a win against them.

“The guys worked their rear-ends off for 90 minutes,” Panthers head coach Jay Vidovich said. “First half it should’ve been over. Put away our chances and finish those opportunities that we created, the game is over. Second half, we go a man down and I thought we did a fantastic job. I think we still had possession. There’s the last five minutes, they had something at us a bit, but otherwise, thought we were in control of the match, even a man down.”

Pitt began the game by putting pressure on Notre Dame and attacking them throughout the first half.

Panthers senior midfielder Valentin Noel almost got himself a great chance in the first minute, as he got close to stealing the ball off of Fighting Irish junior goal keeper Bryan Dowd. Dowd kept his composure and managed to get the ball out.

Pitt graduate forward Josh Luchini had two great chances to score. His first chance saw him shoot right in front of goal in the 12th minute, but his shot hit the cross bar. Then, junior midfielder Filip Mirkovic delivered a great cross to Luchini at the back post, but his shot went into the side netting in the 23rd minute.

Panthers Junior forward Bertin Jacquesson drove down the sideline and cut down the corner into the box. He shot with his left foot in the box and his shot deflected off of Fighting Irish senior defender Reese Mayer into the back of the net for the opening goal in the 26th minute.

Pitt continued to take their chances offensively the rest of the first half. Mirkovic took a shot, which Dowd punched away, and then sophomore midfielder Michael Sullivan’s shot deflected off a defender, in the 27th minute.

Mirkovic’s free kick looked to curl into the bottom right-hand corner, but Dowd saved it to keep the lead at one in the 37th minute.

The Panthers had one last opportunity in the first half in the 42nd minute. Noel shot it front in front of goal, which Dowd saved and then Jacquesson’s subsequent shot Dowd saved as well.

Pitt graduate defender Yanis Leerman received a yellow card during halftime for unsportsmanlike conduct. He then received a second yellow card for a foul on first-year midfielder KK Baffour in the 48th minute, giving him a red card, and putting Pitt down to 10 men the rest of the game.

Replay showed that Leerman got the ball first, but the angle for the challenge and the tough tackle on Baffour that followed the challenge convinced the referee that Leerman fouled him.

With Pitt down a man for the first time this season, Notre Dame started to attack more and sent more players forward to score the tying goal.

This led to Panthers senior goalkeeper Joe van der Sar playing a more important role the rest of the way. He made two saves in the 53rd minute against forwards in first-year Wyatt Borso and junior Daniel Russo.

The Fighting Irish leveled the match at 1-1 in the 59th minute. Sophomore forward Eno Nto delivered a cross in the box that dribbled along the face of goal. Russo got away from Panthers graduate midfielder Lucas Rosa and put it into the back of the net.

Van der Sar made another big save at his goal post, using his knees to block a shot from Russo in the 59th minute. He then blocked another shot, this time with his chest against sophomore midfielder Bryce Boneau in the 63rd minute.

Pitt’s last great chance of the game saw graduate midfielder Jackson Walti take a powerful shot from distance, forcing Dowd to make a save in the 73rd minute.

Notre Dame junior midfielder Matthew Radivosja put it a brilliant, curling through ball to sophomore midfielder Matthew Roou who found himself one-on-one with Van der Sar. Van der Sar then made a great save with his left foot to keep the game tied at 1-1 in the 80th minute.

Neither team created a good chance the rest of the way and they settled for a draw.

Walti thought that the Panthers dominated in the first half, and like Vidovich, that they needed to put away their chances. He complemented Van der Sar’s performance, saying

“He means everything,” Walti said. “I think over the past four years, we’ve had great goalkeepers. Nico was here last night, our goalkeeper last year, and he passed the torch onto Joe and Joe’s been doing a phenomenal job. Multiple games this year he kept us in it. Today he kept us in it. Without him, I think our season would be looking pretty different. Just his presence in the back, his communication. He means a whole lot to this team.”

Pitt starts the first round of the ACC Tournament at home next Wednesday, Nov. 2. They start the tournament as the No. 6 seed and face off against No. 11 NC State.

 

 

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