The Wake Forest Demon Deacons (4-4-1, 1-2-1) continued to slide Friday night as they dropped a pivotal home game 2-1 to the #19 Clemson Tigers (8-2, 3-1). This makes it 3 straight for Wake without a win, and drops them to 3-3 at home. The Deacs had the better of Clemson in the first 45, giving up very little on the back end and looking the more dangerous team around the goal, but they came out of the break and were dominated from kickoff to the final whistle as Clemson peppered the Wake box with crosses and the Wake goal with shots. It is another huge blow to Wake’s season, which has been a very rough one so far.
The game started well for Wake, with the Deacs winning a lot of the second balls in the middle of the field and not allowing Mohamed Seye to hold the ball up and create for his team, as he was held in check for the whole half by Nico Benalcazar and Prince Amponsah. Kyle Holcomb got the first chance of the game, with a nice ball through from Omar Hernandez finding him in behind the Tiger defense on the right side of the area, but his shot across goal was stopped by George Marks from the wide angle. Clemson would get a strange chance on a corner moments later, as a ball that popped up in the air was punched by Trace Alphin, but he didn’t make great contact with it as it bounced straight into the path of Hamady Diop, but he would lash his shot wide of the near post. The game would continue with neither team getting any real clear cut chances for its remainder, with Wake’s best chance would come to Kyle Holcomb in the 29th minute, who would receive a ball from Jake Swallen and cut it back onto his right foot at the top of the box, but his effort wound up being easily caught by Marks. Clemson put Wake in serious danger with a 31st minute counter attack, with Callum Johnson putting a wonderful early ball across for Brandon Parrish to tap it in, but Parrish was late to get there and wouldn’t make contact with the ball.
The half wouldn’t end goalless, however. After a penalty shout from Wake minutes earlier for what looked to be a clear foul on Kyle Holcomb, the Deacs would find themselves with a penalty kick, with Roald Mitchell taking in a ball from Hosei Kijima on his chest and getting behind the defense, cutting across Oscar Agren, who would trip up Mitchell once and then ultimately two-hand push him to the ground after he recovered from the initial trip. It was an easy decision for the official, and Jake Swallen would put the penalty away to give Wake the lead going into half.
Coming out of the half, however, Clemson looked like a different team. The press that Wake had neutralized in the first half ran them ragged in the second, and after a flurry of early Clemson chances from crosses and winning the ball high up the field, they’d get their goal in the 54th minute, with a ball from Ousmane Sylla sending Tim Strobeck in on goal, with the freshman curling it into the top corner on his left foot to tie the game. Clemson kept their foot on the gas, and Strobeck nearly scored his second two minutes later when his effort on the half volley from just inside the box rattled the pipe. Another chance came from a corner, with a bouncing ball in the box lashed goalwards by Hamady Diop, but it was blocked clear by Garrison Tubbs. Wake was able to settle into the game a bit more following this spell of utter dominance for Clemson, finding ways to possess the ball and take it out of their own half, but still were creating nothing while Clemson continued to look dangerous on the counter. Ultimately, Clemson would find their second goal however, with a Tim Strobeck ball being punched out by Trace Alphin but only as far as Ousmane Sylla, who was stripped by Jake Swallen, but the ball would deflect out to Felipe Fernandez Salvador, who made no mistake in curling it into the top corner. It was unlucky for Wake to give up this goal in particular, but Clemson thoroughly deserved to be ahead, and as the final buzzer sounded they would deservingly take home the three points.
There weren’t many positives to take away from this game now that it is all said and done. Wake were dominated at home and now drop to .500 and under .500 in conference play after 9 games overall and 4 in conference. The overall man of the match in this game was Ousmane Sylla for my money, as he was so dangerous on the attack and in the press, and looks as if he might be the next great Clemson midfielder, having taken up the mantle from Philip Mayaka. As for Wake, I think in the first half you saw some good performances, especially in the backline, but it is very difficult to pick out a good performance in that second half. I thought Roald Mitchell was our best player, holding the ball up excellently and being a constant danger to the Clemson backline, and winning the penalty to set up Wake for its only goal. It is a tough result for the Deacs to take, but they can’t go on being sorry for themselves after this rough start.
Wake has a chance to get back on track Tuesday at 7:00 versus William & Mary at Spry, and they travel to Chapel Hill on Friday for a big ACC clash.