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Men’s Soccer: Irish finish strong at home

Joseph Monardo | Thursday, October 25, 2012

No. 7 Notre Dame saved the best for last as it closed out the home portion of its regular season schedule Wednesday with a thrilling, come-from-behind 3-1 victory over No. 3 Marquette.

The Irish (13-3, 5-2 Big East) unleashed a three-goal barrage in the second half to erase a 1-0 first-half deficit and improve their standing in the Big East Blue Division.

With the win, Notre Dame moves into a three-way tie with No. 6 Georgetown and No. 2 Connecticut for first place in the division with only one game remaining.

Notre Dame controlled play in the opening minutes of the game, jumping out to an 8-2 advantage in shots while generating multiple scoring chances. However, it was Marquette that began the scoring with a goal from redshirt freshman defender Axel Sjoberg in the 25th minute. The Golden Eagles found the 6-foot-7 defender on the doorstep of the Irish goal off a corner kick to set up the go-ahead goal. After allowing the goal, Notre Dame failed to compile long possessions and generate scoring chances heading into halftime.

“I think we opened the game very well,” Irish coach Bobby Clark said. “The first 15 minutes, I thought we were very good, we could have had two or three goals at that point. And then we just lost our way. When they got the goal we just went into a funk. You know, they are a good team and they’ve got some very good players … it was a hard little spell there but then the second half we came out, I thought we got back to how we started playing.”

The Irish reasserted control in the second half as the teams spent much of the first 10 minutes in the area of the Marquette box. Notre Dame netted the equalizer in the 55th minute when senior midfielder Kyle Richard gathered the ball at the top of the 18-yard box and sent a shot past Marquette redshirt sophomore goalkeeper Charlie Lyon and inside the left post. It was Richard’s first career goal.

In the 60th minute Irish senior forward Ryan Finley drew a penalty kick after being on the receiving end of a tackle from Lyon. Finley converted his second penalty shot in as many games to give Notre Dame the 2-1 lead.

Less than two minutes later, Finley accepted a pass deep in the opposition’s box and slid in a 61st-minute goal, his 16th of the season. Irish freshman midfielder Patrick Hodan earned the assist on Notre Dame’s third goal in the seven-minute span.

“Some of our stuff was magnificent,” Clark said. “Their goalkeeper had some fantastic saves in the second period. But it was still a close game … so it was just a really good [advertisement] for Big East soccer.”

Notre Dame continued to threaten even with a two-goal lead as the Irish forced Lyon to make a number of difficult saves to prevent his team from falling behind by three. The Golden Eagles countered with chances of their own but Notre Dame closed out the game in front of junior goalkeeper Patrick Wall, who recorded seven saves on the night.

The victory offered a chance for several Irish players to shine, Clark said.

“Patrick Hodan came on, really lit things up,” he said. “He’s doing a terrific job as a freshman. And, of course, Finley is always there. The great thing about Finley, Ryan is now bringing other players into the game. He is not just going himself … he set up several good opportunities. There was a good spell in the second half where we could have had several goals, there could have been more.

“Patrick Wall was very good in goal, he had a good save there near the end. I thought both fullbacks did well, because that’s one of the things. They are very good on the flanks, Marquette. They serve great balls and I think our fullbacks did a great job of stopping their service at source.”

Notre Dame will conclude regular season play on Saturday when it travels to Marquette for a rematch with the Golden Eagles at 8:05 p.m.

Contact Joseph Monardo at jmonardo@nd.edu