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Gafa's overtime winner downs Duke

The Blue Devils played the final eight minutes down two players

The UNC Soccer Team celebrates after defeating Duke 2-1 in overtime.

DURHAM — In the 82nd minute referee Shane Moody issued Duke’s Ryan Thompson his second yellow card and he exited the field just as teammate Chase Keesling had done four minutes earlier.

Duke’s chances of preserving its 1-0 lead against No. 6 North Carolina on a rain soaked night in Durham likely left with Thompson.

After an 87th minute goal from senior Cameron Brown, captain Jordan Gafa scored the game-winner less than two minutes into overtime, blasting a shot from the right side of the box into the upper left corner of the goal to give the Tar Heels (7-1-1, 3-0-1) a 2-1 win.

Gafa said he knew the Tar Heels would have their opportunity to score once they had a two-man advantage over the Blue Devils (3-5-1, 1-2-1).

“Once they went a man down, we really focused on going forward and taking the time to find the right pass and shot,” Gafa said.

“Sure enough, the ball fell in and once that happened we just had all the momentum go our way.”

As Gafa dribbled the ball forward in overtime, he said all he saw in front of him was space and time to line up for a shot.

“Once I hit it, I just knew it was going in,” Gafa said. “There wasn’t really a run going in, so I just took a touch inside and went for it.

“Coach talks about going for it and taking risks. Sometimes you have to lean out there and take a risk, and sure enough it went in.”

Brown said he used that same advice from coach Carlos Somoano when he decided to take a seemingly harmless shot at the goal in the 87th minute.

His hard, low shot from more than 20 yards out made it through Duke’s defense, and the ball skipped to Duke goalie James Belshaw, but he couldn’t corral it, allowing the ball to trickle slowly into the net.

“If anything I was just hoping for a deflection or some kind of rebound and somebody would follow it up,” Brown said. “James Belshaw is an unbelievable goalie, so I think on a different night he saves that.”

The Tar Heels went down 1-0 in the 59th minute after Duke midfielder Riley Wolfe took advantage of a miscommunication by UNC’s backline.

Freshman defender Jonathan Campbell misplayed a header on a long clearance from Duke, and Wolfe launched a shot into the upper right corner of the net.

“Jonathan and O.C. kind of got mixed up together,” Somoano said. “Jonathan can just let it run to (goalie Scott Goodwin), and he kind of lost his footing there on his back pedal and got a very unclean header that dropped loose to one of their guys.”

But Brown said the deficit, which was only the second the Tar Heels had faced all season, didn’t rattle their confidence.

“Nobody had a doubt in their mind that we were going to lose at any time this game,” Brown said. “The belief – in everybody on the field and off the field- the belief that we were going to win is really what got us through tonight.”

The Blue Devils played an aggressive Duke team that racked up to 17 fouls and four crucial yellow cards.

Somoano said that the emotion involved in the rivalry game likely led Duke’s fouling miscues.

UNC benefited from a huge psychological advantage with several hundred Tar Heel fans braving a rainy Friday night to support the Tar Heels and negate Duke’s home-field advantage.

“I don’t have words to possibly describe how thankful I am for them to come out here and push us and support us,” Somoano said. “I wish I could come up with something worthwhile but all I can say is it was very special to us.

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“It makes the win here so meaningful to us. It just makes you proud to be a Tar Heel.”