Well that was interesting. Nothing like a match that your team is in control of from the opening whistle, turned into a tumult with 30 minutes left after a dodgy penalty call. That sets the stage for some fireworks, and the team definitely came through with them.
First things first, hats off to Penn State senior goalkeeper, Andrew Wolverton. He single handedly kept the Nittany Lions in the match with numerous fingertip saves, including a beautiful diving reach back to deny a Liam Callahan header that would have drawn the game back to level. He had 8 on the day. Apparently he did this all on a broken foot. Kudos to this man.
Syracuse controlled the tempo and maintained pressure straight from the opening kick. I don't have possession stats, but the first half had to have been around 70-30 for the Orange. They executed quality build up play, moved the ball well and took advantage of the space that was opened up by the Penn State press. Unfortunately they also took the ball off the woodwork three times in the first half and Wolverton got his mitt to a near post Alex Halis header that was a definite goal, deflecting it just wide, while he was fully extended.
Julian Buescher was just about everywhere in the first half, fluidly switching sides and picking out a cross where needed. Chris Nanco was beating them up and down the line. The central midfield was controlling the tempo and playing the ball tightly.
Then halftime came...
Penn State came out pressing hard, and was able to take some control after the break. They were active, pressing hard and the Orange were having a hard time keeping possession. There were no major threats on goal, but the buildup was still there, threatening. in the 60th minute, after taking in a cross, Alex Bono went to distribute the ball on a roll out to the right midfielder, thought better of it and uncharacteristically spilled the ball. It went around 15 feet directly to the foot of Penn State's Connor Maloney. He took on Tyler Hilliard who got called for getting an arm in and taking him down near the top of the box. From our standpoint on the endline, it looked outside and a free kick, but the ref pointed to the spot. Maloney took the kick and converted in standard FIFA 15 style, kicking the ball right down the center of net, past a diving Alex Bono.
After conceding, the Orange picked the pace back up and the equalizer was imminent. The Orange started peppering the goal, including the aforementioned Callahan header and finally broke through in the 74th. Emil Ekblom took a wide pass from Oyvind Alseth up the right side, cut in on goal and slotted a low corner shot past Wolverton. The shot from our angle looked like it took forever to cross the line and almost got cleared at the goal line, but ended in the back of the net with the score level.
From that point, the pressure stayed on, with a few more shots heading towards Penn State's net, before Alseth slotted home the winner. On the overlap, he took the ball up the right flank off of a Jordan Murrell pass. Dribbled inside the 18 a touch and fired a rifling low cross towards the six yard box, which happened to be on target. I didn't know if it was a cross or a shot, but according to the DO, Alseth stated it was a cross. Either way it worked. The keeper got hands and body to it, but spilled it and it slipped over the line for the game winner.
With the victory, the Orange get to travel to Georgetown on Sunday, November 30th to take on the 8 seed Hoyas. With the matchup, they're looking to avenge the loss that knocked them out of the NCAA Tournament in 2012. That game was decided on penalties and the Hoyas advanced 4-2.