Stingy defense, young offense push Pitt past Cleveland State, 4-0

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Hannah Wilson | Staff Photographer

Junior defender Mohammad Abualnadi (4) collides with a Cleveland State player during Tuesday night’s men’s soccer game.

By Alexander Ganias, Staff Writer

No. 13 Pitt men’s soccer handily defeated the visiting Cleveland State Vikings Tuesday by a score of 4-0.

The Panthers (7-3, 3-1 ACC) came into the match off two wins against then-No. 2 Clemson and unranked Syracuse. But the Vikings (6-4, 5-0 Horizon) came into the match as winners of their last three games and at the top of the Horizon League standings. The last time these two teams met on Oct. 8, 2018, the Vikings defeated the Panthers 4-3 in Pittsburgh.

The match started with Pitt holding onto the ball for most of the first 10 minutes. Its best opportunity in that time frame was a shot from sophomore forward Luke Peperak in the ninth minute, but Viking junior goalkeeper Omeed Naeemy made the save to keep the game scoreless.

The Vikings countered almost immediately, when Pitt junior defender Mohammad Abualnadi tripped a Cleveland State attacker and collected a yellow card in the 10th minute. The resulting free kick went straight out, turning it back over to the Panthers for a goal kick.

The two sides responded to the other’s chances with sturdy defenses, and Pitt would not get another chance until the 20th minute. After a Cleveland State foul, senior midfielder and the Panther’s leading scorer, Rodrigo Almeida, took a free kick from just outside the 18-yard box. The shot went under the jumping wall of Viking defenders, but right into the hands of a diving Naeemy. 

Viking sophomore forward Bojan Kolevski broke free two minutes later with just a lone Pitt defender and the goalkeeper in front of him. But he rushed the shot and it went just wide of the net. Cleveland State did not have many chances in the first half — they only finished the frame with three shots.

The match remained scoreless until the 24th minute when Almeida slowly drifted a pass through the box and right to first year Guilherme Feitosa, who scored the game-winning goal against Syracuse in their last match. Feitosa converted the Almeida pass and scored to give the Panthers a 1-0 lead.

The Vikings had one of their few chances to retaliate in the 34th minute. While players scrambled for the ball in the Pitt 18, Viking senior midfielder Jannis Schmidt somehow got a shot off. Pitt graduate student goalkeeper Nico Campuzano had to sprawl to make the save, but he corralled the ball and kept the shutout intact. 

Pitt had a chance to extend its lead before the half. First-year midfielder Michael Sullivan broke away from the defense and collected a stretch pass while staying onside. Naeemy was the only person in front of him, but the first year couldn’t get a clean shot on target and the ball sailed over the crossbar. The horn sounded with the Panthers leading 1-0.

Despite the Panthers registering 11 shots with four on goal, the visiting Vikings defense kept the game within arms reach. But the offense lagged, with Schmidt’s shot being the only one on goal for the visitors.

The second half started slow and physical, with neither team registering a shot until one from Almeida in the 60th minute. The ball trickled into open space, and Almeida had a near point-blank opportunity, but he sent the ball wide of the net. Almeida eventually helped his team pull away, when he assisted on sophomore forward Bertin Jacquesson’s 69th-minute goal, giving the Panthers a 2-0 lead.

The two goals would be more than what the Panthers needed on Tuesday, as they held the Cleveland State offense in check. The Vikings only mustered six shots with two shots on goal for the entire match.

But the Pitt offense was not done scoring after Jacquesson’s tally. Sullivan got retribution from his missed opportunity earlier in the game, when graduate student midfielder Jackson Walti found him parked inside the 6-yard box. Sullivan tapped the shot past Naeemy for his first collegiate goal.

The Panthers scored one last goal before time expired. Sophomore defenseman Lucas Matszuewski also scored his first collegiate goal to seal Pitt’s 4-0 victory.

For their next match, the Panthers will host no. 3 Duke on Saturday at 7 p.m. This game will stream on ACC Network Extra.

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