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Three takeaways: Indiana gets key player back at key time, earns victory

Victor Bezerra. (Kurt Spitler/HN)

No. 8 Indiana continued its undefeated start in conference play on Sunday with a 3-1 victory over Penn State in Happy Valley. 

Penn State was hampered by a straight red card on Brandon Hackenberg in the 13th minute, allowing IU to push the offensive attack in the first half. 

Here are three takeaways from IU’s third Big Ten win of the season.

Ahlinvi returns, looks phenomenal

One of the biggest additions this offseason for Indiana was Joris Ahlinvi, a senior forward midfielder from Florida International. But as the season began, Ahlinvi was limited by an injury that kept him out of the first nine games of the season.

On Sunday, he finally made his Indiana debut at a time that IU needed it most. The Hoosiers are starting to figure things out on the offensive front as conference play gets in full swing.

Both Ian Black and Victor Bezerra are back from injury. And with the addition of Ahlinvi, IU has a wealth of veteran attackers to pair with the freshmen forwards who have made an impact early in their IU career. 

Ahlinvi was given the start in place of Bezerra and got the Hoosiers on the board early with a 16th-minute header into the top left corner of the net off an assist from Simon Waever.

Note — it wasn’t Herbert Endeley:

The return of Ahlinvi gives IU coach Todd Yeagley a veteran attacker who knows how to find the back of the net and has experience in high-pressure situations.

In his time at FIU, Ahlinvi was an all-conference player and on the MAC Hermann watch list. It’s no secret that going forward, Ahlinvi will have a huge impact on the offensive attack.

IU capitalizing on mistakes 

After struggling at the beginning of the season to take care of chances it was gifted in the opposing half, IU has started to find its stride inside the final 30.

Against Northwestern last Tuesday, IU played two balls that were eventually called own-goals on Northwestern. Those two goals and a score from Aidan Morris made the difference in that 3-1 victory.

On Sunday, Penn State earned a red card in the first 15 minutes of the match, leading to a man advantage for the rest of the game. Ahlinvi’s goal came off a header when the Penn State goalkeeper mistimed his jump and the ball found the back of the net. 

For IU’s final goal, Spencer Glass picked off a pass inside the 18-yard box and buried it in the back of the net to essentially put the game away:

IU has won each of its three Big Ten games by a scoreline of 3-1 and taking advantage of opposing mistakes has been instrumental in the fast start.

Does Celentano have the job? 

One of the biggest surprises in the season was freshman goalkeeper Roman Celentano being handed the starting gig between the sticks in Tuesday’s 3-1 win over Northwestern. Fifth-year senior Sean Caulfield had started the first eight matches of the season, but was taken out of the Starting XI in favor of Celentano.

On Sunday, Celentano once again got the starting gig and looked solid in limited usage. He made two saves while allowing just one goal: a shot from outside the 18-yard box that slipped past him to the left and off the post into the net.

He looked calm and composed and his communication with the higher flanks has been impressive for a guy who’s only played in two matches. 

It looks as if Yeagley, for the time being, has found a new keeper as IU progresses through conference play. If he continues his solid form, there’s no reason that Celentano can’t cement himself as the starting goalie for the remainder of the season.

IU moves to 7-1-2 and returns to action on Wednesday in a top-20 matchup with Kentucky in Bloomington.

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