CLEMSON, S.C. – Senior midfielder Ousmane Sylla came up big for the Tigers against Virginia Tech (3-3-3, 2-1-1 ACC) tallying an assist in the first half and scoring the game-winning goal with four seconds remaining in the match to propel Clemson (6-3-1, 2-2 ACC) to a 2-1 victory on Friday evening at Historic Riggs Field. In a match that came down to the final seconds of play, Sylla showed his experience and composure to secure the win.
In what appeared to be a match that would end in a 1-1 draw, the Clemson Tigers took advantage of a corner kick on the far side of the field with Nathan Richmond taking the kick. Coming up on the front side of the goal, a Hokie defender lofted a header over to the back side of the 18-yard box where Sylla was all alone. Knowing what few seconds remained, Sylla wasted no time by putting his right foot on the ball while it was still in the air for a shot that deflected off a Hokie defender into the back of the net, clinching Clemson’s second ACC win of the season. During the 2023, Sylla has now netted a goal in the first minute of a match (42 seconds; vs UCF on Aug. 24) and the final minutes of a game (five seconds; tonight) during the 2023 campaign.
The game started as a back-and-forth battle in the first half as both programs fired off comparable shot counts. Clemson found the edge by taking seven, two on goal, spurred by four corner kicks in the half. Virginia Tech tallied five shots, four on goal, with two corners.
Despite the Hokies getting two of the better looks in the first half, it was the Tigers that got the upper hand as sophomore Nathan Richmond kept his composure to find the back of the net for the third time this season. The play opened up in the 31st minute when a pass from Shawn Smart split two defenders at midfield. The pass landed at Sylla’s feet just outside the 18-yard box. Sylla, who now has five assists on the year and 19 during his career, passed to Richmond entering on the left side of the box who needed only one touch of his right foot to find the back of the net and allow Clemson to maintain a 1-0 advantage entering halftime.
Virginia Tech evened the match at 1-all in the 70th minute. Misei Yoshizawa corralled the pass from Mayola Kinyua off his chest and was able to flick the ball into the top right corner of the net. The Hokies best chance to net the game-winner came in the 87th minute, as Marcos Escoe nearly headed a corner kick in, but Andema was able to punch the ball out of harm’s way to preserve the tie. The Tigers had numerous scoring opportunities in the second half, but it was the final seconds of play that proved to be the most crucial for Clemson as Sylla found the back of the net for the win.
Clemson finished the evening with an advantage in most stat categories including shots (15-11), saves (7-4) and corners (11-7). The Hokies finished with most shots on goal (8-6), but sophomore goalkeeper Joseph Andema clocked Clemson’s seven saves to secure his sixth victory in net this season and 16th of his career.
Clemson returns to the pitch on Tuesday, Oct. 3 at 7 p.m. when the Tigers welcome Winthrop to Historic Riggs Field.