The No. 1 Pitt men’s soccer team faced Notre Dame in the semifinal round of the 2020 ACC tournament in Raleigh, North Carolina, on Wednesday night, and a confident Panthers squad overpowered the Fighting Irish to secure a 3-1 win and a spot opposite No. 2 Clemson in the ACC championship game.
Pitt’s first goal of the game came after Valentin Noel was taken down just outside the box, earning a free kick. Veljko Petkovic would take that set piece for the Panthers and hook a shot into the right side of the Irish net to give Pitt a 1-0 advantage in the 21st minute.
In the 34th minute, the Panthers would double their lead when a Raphael Crivello cross found the foot of Noel in the narrow void between Irish defenders Philip Quinton and Mohammad Abualnadi. Noel then tucked the ball into the left side of the Notre Dame net for a 2-0 lead.
Ten minutes later, Petkovic struck again, and once again, his shot issued from the top of the box. This time, it ricocheted off Irish defender Senan Farrelly and into the back of the net to give Pitt a 3-0 advantage it would take into halftime and hold for most of the second half.
In the second half, Notre Dame played the part of the aggressor early on, with Pitt apparently content to sit on its extensive lead. However, the Panthers continued to stifle the Irish advances and did not allow the Notre Dame attackers to gain any traction. But Notre Dame managed to get on the board with 3:11 left, thanks to a Jack Lynn penalty kick.
Of particular note were the performances of Petkovic and Noel in the attacking third and Pitt goalkeeper Nico Campuzano, who came up with six saves to keep the Panthers afloat.
The game was Petkovic’s second multi-goal game of the season, and it ended a three-game goalless streak for him. However, Pitt did not want for goals while he was held scoreless, as Noel was on a goal-scoring streak that he extended to five games on Wednesday night. No Pitt player other than Noel has ever scored a goal in five consecutive games.
One negative was that Pitt defender Jasper Löeffelsend was taken out of the game after an apparent injury just under 18 minutes into the second half. Löeffelsend captured the team lead in assists on Wednesday night, as he recorded his sixth assist in seven games on Petkovic’s second goal. The defender’s status moving forward is unknown.
With the convincing 3-1 victory, Pitt not only completed a two-game sweep of ACC rival Notre Dame, but it will also advance to the ACC championship game, where it will face No. 2 Clemson. As the second-ranked team in the nation, Clemson represents Pitt’s toughest challenge of the season to date. The two teams will face off Sunday at noon ET, and the contest will air on ESPN U.