Despite a late rally and a goal in the 85th minute, AFC Mobile fell 4-3 to Pensacola FC at home in the first Gulf Coast Premier League match of the season.
Pensacola started on the front foot, nearly opening the scoring in the fourth minute of the match when a shot from Pensacola’s Matt Brooks ricocheted off the crossbar and out for a Mobile goal kick. Four minutes later, Pensacola’s Dillon Gallet found his way in behind the Mobile defense, but keeper Elijah Gibson collected Gallet’s attempt.
Minutes later Mobile forward Iba Ndaw was brought down outside the box and awarded a free kick. Ndaw curled in a free kick into the left corner to give the Azaleas a 1-0 lead. It was Ndaw’s second free kick goal in an AFC Mobile shirt.
“You definitely could see we had some attacking talent out there. Iba Ndaw had a couple more goals. That’s been a great pickup for us.” AFC Mobile head coach Nate Nicholas said.
In the 21st minute, Chisom Ogbonna beat the Pensacola defense but his shot was easily collected by Pensacola keeper Rudy Seelman. Pensacola would nearly equalize in the 26th minute but Christopher Zeller’s header was stopped by Gibson.
Pensacola’s equalizer would not be delayed long, however, coming in the 30th minute in the form of an own goal after Martin Fiemawhle’s attempt to collect a low cross from Pensacola ended up in the back of the net. But only three minutes later, the Azaleas took a 2-1 lead after a shot from Ndaw fell to Ogbonna in at the back post.
In the 36th minute, Ndaw was fouled hard and returned to his feet gingerly. Minutes later coach Nicholas subbed Ndaw off for Abdul Almutairi. Almutairi, a former Kuwaiti U-17 international, was able to slot in several attacking positions throughout the match in his GCPL and AFC Mobile debut.
Just before the end of the half, Pensacola’s Isaiah Lopez headed in a shot at the back post to level the game at 2-2 after a high cross went untouched. Seconds later, Lopez was shown yellow during stoppage time of the first half after a hard flying tackle.
Pensacola took their first lead of the game in the 64th minute when Alik Morgan slotted in a low cross that deflected off Gibson. As the away team scored its third goal, Mobile centerback Pablo Sanjuan Delgado came off with a leg injury and was replaced with Guillermo Lumbreras, Jr.
“For him to get injured and give up the game-leading goal at that time, at the same time, it was a tough pill to swallow.” Nicholas said.
The Azaleas nearly equalized in the 68th minute when Ndaw beat the Pensacola defense, but his low shot went across the face of goal. Two minutes later, Pensacola took a 4-2 lead after a scramble in the box.
Pensacola almost iced the match with a fifth goal on the night when an advancing Elijah Gibson was chipped, but the shot was cleared off the line by Mobile’s Markos Mallis, who played all 90 minutes for the home side.
As is their wont, Mobile made it close. In the 85th minute, midfielder David Valverde’s pass opened the Pensacola defense to find Erik Aispuro on the wing. Aispuro then sent in a cross to the penalty spot, where Ndaw powered in the shot to put Mobile back in the game with five minutes left to play, sending the 871 fans in attendance into a frenzy.
The Azaleas pushed for an equalizer late, but a last ditch free kick at the end of stoppage time was easily cleared. The match ended 4-3.
AFC Mobile will travel to Lafayette, Louisiana to take on Cajun Soccer Club in the first of two out of conference matches this season on Saturday. That match kicks off at 6 p.m. at LUS FIber stadium.
AFC Mobile will return to The Lip in three weeks to take on GCPL newcomers Real United FC Riverhawks. Kickoff is at 7:00 p.m. on Saturday, June 2 at the Archbishop Lipscomb Athletic Complex located at 3610 Michael Boulevard in Mobile. Tickets are only $5 and children 12 and under are admitted free.