The Wake Forest Demon Deacons (4-2-1, 1-1-1) got their second taste of ACC road action this season last night, traveling to Raleigh where they would share the spoils with the NC State Wolfpack (4-3-1, 0-2-1) after a hotly contested match in front of a loud crowd. Although the Wake players were visibly upset with the result at the end of the 110 minutes, it was a strong performance for the Deacs, as although they had a bit of trouble in the first half they dominated proceedings for the rest of the game, but just couldn’t put away the big chances that they were faced with. Their undefeated streak against the Pack now stretches to 20 games, but State will be much happier with this result than the Deacs are.
In the first half, Wake was struggling against State’s press, unable to move the ball around with the fluidity they were looking for, making some turnovers in their own half and the middle of the field that continuously set up State in decent positions, but they didn’t have any real clear cut chances. It was an uneventful half generally, with both teams struggling to break through the other’s back line. Pepe Garcia came closest to opening the scoring for the Wolfpack in the 19th minute, getting the ball at the top of the right side of the box but fizzing his effort just wide of Trace Alphin’s goal. Wake’s biggest chance of the half fell to Prince Amponsah on a corner, when Garrison Tubbs was able to head the ball back across goal where it sat up for Amponsah on his left foot, but he whiffed the half volley and Alex Hernandez was able to clear the ball away.
These were the only two chances you could really call clear cut in the first half, with the only other threat to either goal coming from a Jake Swallen free kick from the top of the area that he looped well over the bar. But the first half would end in controversy, with the Wolfpack players screaming for handball in the 44th minute from a Jamie Smith free kick that seemed to deflect off of Chase Oliver’s arm, and then again only seconds later when Takuma Suzuki would deflect a throw in off his arm while going up for a header. In my own opinion, I think the first one should have been a penalty, and the Pack were right to be upset about it, but in the end it went uncalled and the half ended with both teams still all square.
The second half would be a very different 45 minutes to the first, with Wake taking control of the game and creating a lot of clear cut opportunities for themselves to take the lead. A big chance came in the 53rd minute for Nico Benalcazar off of a Jake Swallen corner, with his glancing header flashing across the goal and going wide. The biggest chance of the game came in the 63rd minute, when Omar Hernandez put Jahlane Forbes through on the left side of the box, with his cross finding the foot of Kyle Holcomb with an open goal to shoot at, but Holcomb would hit the ball backwards and the chance would go begging. Pablo Pedregosa did get a touch of the ball before it got to him, but Holcomb will be very upset with himself after not putting that one away, as it was one that he absolutely should have scored. Another chance came moments later, with Kyle Holcomb setting up Omar Hernandez on the left side of the box, but Leon Krapf was able to easily save his tough angle shot across goal.
With Wake in full control, they suddenly found themselves chasing the game after a corner in the 71st minute was deflected only half clear onto the foot of Kuda Muskwe, who put a dangerous effort on goal that Trace Alphin was able to make a big save on, but the rebound deflected out to Alex Hernandez, who ripped home his first goal in a Wolfpack jersey to give them the lead against the run of play. Wake spent no time feeling sorry for themselves, as only 40 seconds later Omar Hernandez would cut a ball back to the top of the box, where Chase Oliver was able to run onto it all alone on his left foot, placing it into the bottom corner to even the scores back up and kill any NC State momentum and silence the raucous crowd. NC State had a chance to score and take the lead back only 5 minutes later, with a Cam Murray cross being headed half clear by Garrison Tubbs, but right into the path of Noe Cabezas, who got it all wrong on his attempt, leaning back on the half volley and losing his footing as his shot sailed over the crossbar. Cabezas almost broke Wake’s hearts in the final minute of play when his long range effort on the ground was deflected by Prince Amponsah, with Trace Alphin frozen in net as he watched the ball go just wide. The final buzzer sounded and the two teams would go to OT after a riveting 90 minutes.
The OT periods did not live up to this precedent, however, as neither team was really able to create any chances, nor get full control of the game. The only moments of real note were an Omar Hernandez right footed effort over the bar from the top of the box in the first overtime, and a pair of incidents involving State forward Kuda Muskwe, with him having a shot from inside the area blocked, and overrunning what looked to be a sure headball goal on a ball across from Noe Cabezas. In the end it was a 1-1 draw that both teams will feel that they deserved more from.
As for man of the match in this game, I would say you would have to look to the Wake backline, who were exceptional throughout this game. In my opinion, Prince Amponsah was the best player on the field for either team, with an incredible defensive effort on his part as well as some good work in possession. The rest of the backline was also very impressive, with Nico Benalcazar having a particularly impressive game as well. Jahlane Forbes was also very good going forward, and was able to spring a lot of Wake’s attacks down that side. In the end, these performances led to a Wake result that they’re likely not happy with, but I don’t think it’s time to push the panic button on this team yet. This was a very impressive performance for Wake, especially in the second half, and gives reason to think they’ll be able to get some more wins going forward this season. They definitely left some goals on the field in this one, and if they can just find their finishing boots going forward the Deacs will be just fine.
The Deacs will return to action Tuesday night at Spry against Liberty, with kickoff set for 7:00 PM. They’ll also end next week with a huge clash against #2 Clemson at Spry.