NOTRE DAME, Ind. — The 2020 season finally got underway for the Fighting Irish on Thursday evening with a 1-0 win over Kentucky at Alumni Stadium.
Freshman Daniel Russo scored the winner in the 62nd minute, rising to head home a corner from Aiden McFadden to score what turned out to be the match-winning goal.
The Irish defense put the clamps on the Wildcat attack, posting a clean sheet to open the season.
HOW IT HAPPENED
The Irish enjoyed the majority of possession in the opening 45 minutes and created a number of scoring chances. Matthew Radivojsa fired two attempts just wide in the opening moments.
In the 22nd minute senior goalkeeper Keagan McLaughlin was called into action, parrying a shot at his near post for his first save of the evening. Just three minutes later McFadden had the best scoring chance for the Irish of the half, heading a cross just over the bar.
Notre Dame and Kentucky went into the halftime intermission scoreless. The Irish outshot the Wildcats 6-4 in the first frame and led in corners 4-2.
The Irish came out of the break on the front foot, nearly scoring in the 51st minute when a shot from Mohamed Omar just missed high over the bar.
All the Notre Dame pressure paid off in the 62nd minute, as McFadden put the corner on a plate for Russo to nod into the back of the net to put the Irish on top 1-0.
The Irish defense stood strong the rest of the way, not allowing too many dangerous scoring chances from the visitors, as Notre Dame completed the shutout victory to open the season.
STAT OF THE MATCH
McLaughlin made a career-high four saves en route to his fourth clean sheet of his career. The senior hasn’t allowed a goal in any of his five career appearances for the Irish.
HEAD COACH CHAD RILEY’S TAKE
On the opener…
“The guys were great. Credit to Kentucky, they are an unbelievably good team and we are thankful that they came up for this game. I don’t think it could have been a better game for us. We were fortunate to get the goal to win it but Kentucky had some dangerous moments as well.
“Defensively we did a good job. Keagan [McLaughlin] had a really good night in goal. In the attack we can be a little bit sharper around the goal but we created some quality chances.
“Overall I am very happy with the team and very pleased with the way they have responded. It is hard to get the first win in a normal year and given everything we have gone through it is extra special to start our season with a win.”
On the clean sheet…
“You always want to be good defensively and score one more goal than the other team. But defensively if you get clean sheets and start to build pride in how you are defensively that is a good foundation for the team.”
On Daniel Russo scoring in his debut…
“He is a goal scorer. He works his butt off and he has scored goals in almost every preseason scrimmage we have had. Not only does he score goals but he holds play up well. I thought he had a great game.”
NOTES OF THE MATCH
- The Irish improve to 27-9-8 in season openers in program history and are now 32-8-4 in home openers.
- The win moved the series record against Kentucky to 5-1-0 in favor of Notre Dame and 3-1-0 when playing at Notre Dame.
- The Irish have now had a freshman score in the first game of the season for the second straight season, as Mohammad Abualnadi accomplished the feat last season against Saint Louis.
- Freshman Matthew Radivojsa and sophomore Reese Mayer earned the first starts of their career in the opener.
- Along with Radivojsa and Mayer, Ethan O’Brien, Russo, Paddy Burns, and Michael Lynch all made their Notre Dame debut.
The Irish welcome Pitt to town for what will technically be Notre Dame’s final non-conference matchup of the fall at 7 p.m. ET on Saturday, Sept. 26 at Alumni Stadium.
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