Sept. 30, 2014
NOTRE DAME, Ind. – It was better late than never for Nick Besler and the top-ranked University of Notre Dame men’s soccer team on Tuesday evening as the senior captain headed home the golden goal in the 107th minute in a 1-0 triumph over VCU at Alumni Stadium.
Notre Dame (5-1-2) controlled much of the match and outshot VCU 23-8, including an 8-1 advantage in shots on goal. The Fighting Irish earned 10 corner kicks compared to just three for the Rams (3-6-1).
The game-winning sequence began with a corner kick from Patrick Hodan and Jeffrey Farina headed the ball to Besler, who was positioned at the near post. It was the first goal of the season for the central midfielder.
“We’d been getting really good service all night from Connor (Klekota) and (Patrick) Hodan and Jeff (Farina) got the initial header and put it right across the box and I was there right at the goal line,” Besler said. “It was pretty easy for me.”
Notre Dame had several good chances late in the second half and in overtime. In the 74th minute, Klekota crossed the ball to Evan Panken and his header was placed just wide of the near post from six yards out. Minutes later, Jon Gallagher battled his way in close and sent a shot wide of the post.
The Fighting Irish nearly broke through in the final minutes of regulation. In the 87th minute, Hodan sent a corner kick into the box and Brandon Aubrey headed the ball on frame, but it was cleared off the goal line by a Ram defender. VCU goalkeeper Garrett Cyprus dove and punched away a Hodan shot, which came from the top of the penalty box, in the 88th minute.
“We have a very positive team and they’ve been through these things before,” Notre Dame head coach Bobby Clark said. “We were dominating in the second half similar to the Kentucky game when we lost in the last minute. And even tonight we had to scramble in the last minute of regulation and I thought `Oh, no. Not again.’ You just have to stick with what you were doing well and connecting passes. I really thought we did a really good job of that in the second half. I thought we really controlled the second half and overtime.”
It looked as though it wasn’t going to be Notre Dame’s night in the early stages of overtime when Cyprus saved a penalty-kick attempt from Hodan after VCU was whistled for a handball in the box. Then in the 93rd minute, Farina had a shot ricochet off the post and Leon Brown’s follow-up attempt was tipped over the crossbar by Cyprus, who finished with seven saves. Notre Dame goalkeeper Patrick Wall had one save to notch his fourth clean sheet of the season.
“We played very well in the second half and we had some excellent chances,” Clark said. “We should have taken care of it, but their goalkeeper was fantastic tonight with several great saves. We just had to keep plugging away and keep our confidence and play as a team. I think we did that and got our reward with a couple minutes left.
“Even the goal seemed to rattle around. It wasn’t one that went straight in. They got Brandon Aubrey’s header off the line earlier and I thought that was going to happen again. Poor Patrick (Hodan) missed the penalty kick, but then he had the corner kick (on the game winner) so he had some reward at the end of the day.”
The Fighting Irish return to Atlantic Coast Conference play Friday when they play host to Boston College. The match is slated for 7:30 p.m. (ET) at Alumni Stadium and it will be streamed on WatchESPN.
Sept. 30, 2014
Alumni Stadium – Notre Dame, Ind.
VCU (3-6-1) 0 0 0 0 – 0
#1 Notre Dame (5-1-2) 0 0 0 1 – 1
— Sean Carroll, Assistant Athletic Media Relations Director