The Pitt men’s soccer team faced Northern Illinois in a second-round matchup in the NCAA tournament on Sunday, and despite a solid effort from the MAC champions, the Panthers were able to secure a 4-2 victory on a damp afternoon at Ambrose Urbanic Field and punch their ticket to the third round.
Northern Illinois would strike first, as Huskies forward Anthony Markanich put a header past Panthers goalkeeper Nico Campuzano in the fifth minute, capitalizing on a scoring chance off a corner kick. That made it 1-0, but the visitors would only hold that lead briefly.
Just 31 seconds later, Pitt would respond, as Panthers forward Bertin Jacquesson sent a cross into the box that slipped through the hands of Huskies goalkeeper Martin Sanchez and fell to the feet of Panthers forward Guilherme Feitosa. The freshman then put it away to tie the game at 1-1.
In the 30th minute, Pitt would take a 2-1 lead, as Panthers midfielder Filip Mirkovic dropped a bomb of a pass from midfield directly in front of Jacquesson in the box. Jacquesson then allowed it to take a bounce and proceeded to launch a rocket of a shot into the back of the net to put the Panthers ahead.
Pitt would tack on another with 40 seconds left in the first half, as Panthers forward Luis Sahmkow found Panthers midfielder Jackson Walti heading into the box and hit him in stride. Walti then slid a shot through the five hole of the Northern Illinois goalkeeper to set Pitt up with a 3-1 halftime advantage.
Northern Illinois would waste no time getting down to business in the second half, as Huskies forward Roque Viegas Jr. beat Campuzano with a shot from outside the box less than two minutes after the resumption of play, narrowing Pitt's lead to one.
Once again, Pitt would respond in short order. And once again, it was a Jacquesson cross that set up a scoring chance for Pitt. This one soared into the box and found Panthers midfielder Valentin Noel, who struck it on the fly and beat Sanchez to make it 4-2.
Northern Illinois threatened again in the 58th minute, as Huskies forward Nick Markanich had Campuzano one on one and went five hole. The shot got through, but Campuzano slowed it. Still, Markanich seemed certain to score until Panthers defender Jasper Löeffelsend arrived at the last second to tap the ball out of play and thwart Markanich.
Jacquesson would create another scoring opportunity for Pitt in the 74th minute, as he streaked down the right side of the field and sent a perfect pass into the box for Panthers forward Alexander Dexter. Dexter would then hammer a shot into the back left corner of the net to extend his team's lead to three.
Despite a concerted effort and several resulting chances, Northern Illinois would be unable to cut into Pitt's lead, and the Panthers would top the Huskies by a score of 5-2.
With the win, Pitt improved its record to 12-5-1 on the season and claimed a spot in the third round of the NCAA tournament. In the next round, Pitt will face the winner of the matchup between Hofstra and Penn State.