After a nervy 90 minutes, No. 2 Wake was able to hold strong against a difficult Duke team for a 2-1 win in Durham. The Deacs moved up to 5-1-0 overall with this win and 3-1-0 in conference, while the Blue Devils fell to 2-4-0 and 2-3-0 in conference, with their two wins against NC State being their only victories of the season. Despite not really putting in the performance that they were looking for, the Deacs will be elated to return to Winston Salem with a win ahead of their clash with No. 3 Clemson next Friday at 5:00 PM.
The first half was a very tightly contested affair, with Duke pressing high up the field and forcing the Deacs into some early mistakes, almost leading to a goal 13 minutes in, when Daniel Wright sent in a corner into the head of Antino Lopez, but Andrew Pannenberg came up with a big save. The following corner led to nothing, with Lopez heading well wide, and Wake were able to grow more into the game.
Six minutes later, the Deacs were able to find a goal, finally breaking down Duke. Jake Swallen was able to track down a ball that Ian Murphy had initially blocked away, passing it to Kyle Holcomb, who passed it to Machop Chol, who wriggled away from a few defenders while cutting in, then leaving the ball for Swallen who passed it to his left to an unmarked Calvin Harris, who put it on his right foot and curled it off the crossbar, post, ground, and in with a beautiful strike which gave Wake the lead and gave Harris his third tally of the year.
While Duke were able to grow back into the half after that goal with some shooting opportunities on corners and from outside the area, they didn’t find the equalizer before the halftime interval, sending the Deacs into the half leading by a goal and with all to play for in the second half. And the Blue Devils were certainly more than happy to play for it.
Duke came out of the break looking absolutely dominant. They fired a few warning shots nearly creating a sure goal in the 49th on a ball across the box, then nearly scoring on a scramble on a corner that had to be cleared off the line, followed by a blocked shot on the same play. Nico Benalcazar would head another shot clear in the 55th, before Scotty Taylor of Duke missed a chance that will give him nightmares, pushing it wide of the post from inside of eight yards on a chance that looked easier to score than miss.
Wake would find itself a decent chance with about 22 minutes to go, when Garrison Tubbs created some space for himself inside the area after a corner, putting the ball across to Calvin Harris who was able to put the ball between the legs of Will Pulisic, but the Pulisic got just enough of it to put slow it down and put it away from goal. Duke would take their next opportunity, on a gorgeous passing play, where defender Lewis McGarvey was able to find Ian Murphy further up the field, who found Nick Pariano just inside the area, who was able to tap it to Jack Doran, who slid it beyond the reach of Pannenberg to give him his third goal of the season and tie the game up at one.
The Deacs were almost able to hit back right after when Koby Carr sent the ball back across the box to Calvin Harris, who hit it on goal, but Pulisic was equal to it. Peter Stroud almost gave the Blue Devils a victory to remember with about 11 minutes left, but dragged his shot just wide of the far post after finding himself in a one on one situation with Pannenberg.
Omar Hernandez would make the Blue Devils rue their missed chances five minutes later when he would score the eventual winner. Kyle Holcomb was able to win a free kick on the right side of the box off of a throw in. The left-footed Hernandez stepped up to take it, and curled it beautifully into the far post over the flapping arms of Pulisic to give the Deacs a lead they wouldn’t relinquish, in spite of a late free kick opportunity for Duke that would lead to nothing. While they didn’t look their best this game, they still took home a win. This is the kind of game good teams win, and they found a way to win it.
This is another game where it’s hard to pick a man of the match, as it felt like the team struggled throughout the game but still found a way to win. Holland Rula looked good at left back again this game, showing that he has made the step up that he needed to from last year and has become a definite starter. Garrison Tubbs looks like the anchor for the Deacs backline hopefully for four years. Calvin Harris was active and got himself a goal, but I’m going to give man of the match to the match winner here, Omar Hernandez. Hernandez found himself playing as part of a double pivot in the midfield and also moved up to the attacking midfield slot late in the game. It still feels like Bobby Muuss is trying to figure out how he can get him on the field just because of the magic he has in his left foot, and Hernandez made it clear this game why Muuss is trying to do this. He has shown his value in the last two games, assisting Holcomb’s game winner against UNC and this week scoring a winner of his own. He has proven himself to be another valuable asset to this team, and he ultimately decided this game, so he’ll receive my plaudits for the week.