The No. 17 Kentucky men’s soccer team opened its home slate with a victory that was far more dominant than the final score indicated, topping Duquesne 1-0 at the Bell Soccer complex on Tuesday.
Two minutes into the second half, the Cats broke the stalemate when a failed clearance fell to Noah Hutchins, who knifed into the penalty area, received a pass from Jordan Wilson which bounced off a defender, deftly dribbled left and shot into the lower left corner of the net from about 12 yards.
“We had a couple of good runs inside, and I saw Noah coming in the hole, so I just tried to play it in his path, and the rest was well done by Noah,” said Wilson, one of three senior captains for the Cats.
UK was the clear aggressor all game, spending much of the night in Duquesne’s half of the pitch. The Cats got off three shots in quick succession around the five-minute mark of the first half. Shots by Napo Matsoso and Hampus Agerstrom were blocked, and a look from Wilson went wide right.
Matsoso and Agerstrom applied pressure all over the field. The Dukes tried to double-team Matsoso much of the game, but the senior midfielder routinely dribbled out of trouble and found teammates.
Agerstrom got off seven shots, two of which sailed a just over the crossbar.
The Cats outshot Duquesne 17-8 on the night, but the Dukes made their strongest threat late in the first half, getting off a pair of good looks in the final two minutes that were saved by UK keeper Stuart Ford.
Ford preserved the UK lead with another sweet save with 12 minutes to play, making a diving stop of Diego Vieira’s shot from the mid-left side of the box.
Wilson said Ford has done a great job of stepping into the shoes of departed two-time All American goalie Callum Irving.
“Stuart’s been really good. He’s been a rock back there. He’s coming in with confidence after a really good preseason, and he’s gelling with the back four really well,” Wilson said.
The Cats nearly added another goal at the 69-minute mark. Matsoso used some nifty dribbling to beat a double-team and was tackled from behind as he broke toward the goal, drawing a penalty. But Duquesne keeper Evan Kozlowski made a spectacular diving save on Matsoso’s penalty kick.
The Cats had more scoring opportunities late, but Xahne Reid couldn’t handle a pass from JJ Williams as streaked toward the goal at the 85-minute mark. Moments later, Williams was caught offside as the UK offense attacked. A quality shot from Williams was blocked with about a minute left.
“This a really good start for the team,” said Wilson. “To get a great win on the road against Marquette and then come here, we were pretty excited for our home opener. We want to have a good record at home. We want to kind of make this our fortress and make this a hard place to play.”
Josh Sullivan; 859-231-3225, @sullyjosh
Dartmouth at Kentucky
7 p.m. Friday