SYRACUSE, N.Y. – After a physical battle throughout the entire 90 minutes, Virginia (6-3-0, 2-1 ACC) downed No. 3 Syracuse (7-1-1, 2-1 ACC) by a score of 1-0 thanks to a spectacular goal in the final minutes from captain Leo Afonso on Saturday night (Sept. 24) at SU Soccer Stadium.
85’ – Virginia: Leo Afonso (Unassisted)
HOW IT HAPPENED:
Virginia went toe-to-toe with Syracuse in a battle for the midfield as each team sought to control possession and the pace of play early on. Physicality became a theme that couldn’t be ignored as yellow cards were issued to Virginia’s Reese Miller and Axel Ahlander as well as Syracuse’s Jeorgio Kocevski.
In the 22nd minute of play, Ahlander was taken down outside Virginia’s own penalty area. Once again, it was Kocevski who was the guilty party, but this time a second yellow card signaled the end of his night forcing Syracuse to play with 10 men for the remainder of the match.
Following the red card, the Cavaliers amped up the pressure. The Cavaliers grabbed hold of possession and took control of the pace of play. Virginia substitute and leading goal-scorer Kome Ubogu came just inches from putting Virginia ahead on a pair of occasions, but the half would end scoreless.
The Cavaliers started the second half with a flurry of chances, but play shifted back and forth between the two teams as the match wore on. As the hour mark approached, Virginia began to pin the Orange back in their defensive half while Syracuse threw numbers behind the ball.
Patience was crucial for the Cavaliers as they set out to break down a stout Orange back line that featured as many as six players at times. Asparuh Slavov and Axel Ahlander each created chances that drifted wide of the goal or were denied by the Syracuse goalkeeper as the Cavaliers struggled to unlock the low block.
With 84 minutes down, it was Slavov who played an intelligent long ball down the right-wing releasing Leo Afonso. Drifting down the outside of the Syracuse penalty area, the striker cut inside on his left foot and unleashed a shot that was thrashed into the top left corner of the goal to clinch the victory for his side.
- The victory is Virginia’s first over a top-25 opponent this season
- Virginia has entered a match against Syracuse trailing the Orange in the polls on three occasions and improved to a record of 2-0-1 in those games after tonight’s result
- The last time an unranked Virginia squad upset a ranked opponent came when Virginia triumphed over No. 4 UNC by a score of 2-0 in Chapel Hill (10/7/2016)
- George Gelnovatch improves to an all-time record of 32-29-8 when coaching against the nation’s top 5
- Afonso has scored in consecutive matches against Syracuse
- Afonso scored his fifth goal of the season to tie Kome Ubogu for the team lead in goals
- The goal is Afonso’s third game-winner of the season
- Virginia improves to a record of 5-2-1 against Syracuse all-time and 3-1 at SU Soccer Stadium
- Virginia outshot the Orange by a margin of 14-10 while placing four shots on target
- The Cavaliers achieved double-digit shot totals for the eighth time in their nine games this season
- Virginia and Syracuse combined for nine yellow cards on the night and a total of 27 fouls
- The Cavaliers were whistled offside on nine occasions
The Cavaliers will hit the road again on Friday (Sept. 30) as Virginia makes the trip to No. 8 Pittsburgh for a 7 p.m. kickoff.
Virginia Men's Soccer Highlights at No. 3 Syracuse 9.24.22