NOTRE DAME, Ind. — Freshman Stefan Stojkovic’s first career goal with 25 seconds remaining in regulation lifted Kentucky to a thrilling 1-0 win against No. 5 Notre Dame – the defending national champions – on Monday night at Alumni Stadium.
UK’s game-winning goal came with 25 seconds remaining in regulation. Callum Irving started the scoring chance with a majestic goal kick to Stojkovic, who found fellow Swede and freshman Hampus Agerstrom at the corner of the box.
“This win feels really good,” UK head coach Johan Cedergren said. “I was telling our team before not to fear [Notre Dame], but to respect them because they are the kind of program we want to build at Kentucky. At the end of the day credit to Notre Dame, I know they’re going to be back probably in a Final Four. It was a good game from our end.
“This weekend was all about learning. Going and playing the last two nationalcChampions and not being intimidated. We talk about some of the goals we have at Kentucky to go to special places. If we are going to be able to go to places we want to go we have to be able to come into places like this and not be intimidated.”
The loss for Notre Dame (2-1-1) marked its first in 318 days, dating back to a 2-0 loss to Virginia on Oct. 26, 2013. Notre Dame dominated the NCAA en route to a national title in 2013, finishing the year 17-1-6 and winning nine of its last 10 games. The loss for ND snapped its 13-match unbeaten streak.
The Wildcats weathered a storm of Fighting Irish attacks in the late going. UK successfully cleared a corner on 87 minutes before Jason Pitts headed the follow-up attempt out for another corner. The ensuing Notre Dame set piece went out for Irving’s goal kick, which led to the winner.
“The goal came just like the coaches said it would,” Stojkovic said. “I am checking [up toward the goal kick from an advanced striker position], Hampus as the offensive midfielder is running in behind and the goal comes from that combination. It was a really good goal in the sense that even that late in the game we execute the plan successfully.”
Stojkovic’s game-winner with 25 seconds remaining in regulation was the fourth-latest goal in UK history.
GOALLLLLLL WIth 25 seconds on the clock. It’s Stefan Stojkovic’s FIRST CAREER GOAL!
— Kentucky Mens Soccer (@UKMensSoccer) September 8, 2014
Kentucky (2-2-0) got a shutout from junior All-Conference USA goalkeeper Irving, who saved a career-high seven shots in the win.
Irving was called into action on 71 minutes as Conner Klekota collected a meager UK clearance, and drove a bullet from 25 yards on net, forcing the Irving into a dive to his right to deflect.
The best chance of the match for either team fell for Notre Dame’s Jon Gallagher on 84 minutes, who was teed up by Klekota just right of the spot. The shot was dragged wide, however, to keep the result in doubt.
Irving also made a great sequence of saves in the 54th minute.
The UK keeper stopped a slotted-attempt during a 1-on-1 with Patrick Hodon, deflecting a kick save into the air just above the 6-yard box. With Notre Dame players looking to follow up, Irving quickly got to his feet and punched away from danger before the UK defense cleaned up.
“In a game like this you know there are going to be a lot of chances especially against a team like Notre Dame that is great attacking,” Irving said. “I’m happy I got to play a part, but really just the team played with a lot of heart from the first minute to the end. I have to give a lot of credit to the defense, especially the back-4 and the two guys in front of them too.”
Kentucky struggled to get on the ball for much of the first half, but did create the two best chances of that interval.
After barely possessing the ball in the first 10 minutes the Wildcats produced a golden opportunity on 13 minutes. Irving played a goal kick straight down the pitch, and it sprung Justin Laird on goal, but his shot was saved well.
The next big scoring opportunity of the match came for Notre Dame as a left-footed, in-swinging cross by Danny Lojek fell to Evan Panken, who volleyed toward the left upper-90 before Irving tipped it over.
On 20 minutes Laird was rewarded for hard word deep in the Notre Dame box. He dispossessed Notre Dame captain Mark Mishu, but Max Hallwachs was alert and came off his line quickly to clear the danger.
The win was UK’s 16th all-time against a ranked team, the 5th under Johan Cedergren.