It was a tale of two halves in Pensacola on Saturday night when AFC Mobile traveled to Ashton Brosnaham Park to take on Pensacola FC. The Azaleas scored four goals in a dominating first half, all assisted by club co-captain Tilman Schober. Despite the strong lead, the Azaleas conceded three goals in the second half to hold on to a 4-3 win over the 59ers.
“I’m very disappointed in how the second-half went,” said Schober. “It’s difficult because you know you’re the better team, but for some reason, it just wouldn’t work. But we got the game over the line, and we won in the end. It’s three points, and we’re still first. So we’ve just got to look at the positives and try to learn from the mistakes we made at the beginning of the second half.
It was a lackluster start for both teams with few chances early on. Sam Blackburn scored the first goal for the Azaleas in the 16th minute after getting on the end of a ball from Schober.
Blackburn’s goal put the Azaleas on the front foot, leading to a barrage of chances for the visitors. Schober nearly found himself on the scoresheet in the 21st minute, but his shot from the right side of the box bounced off the right post. Minutes later, Chisom Ogbonna took a long-range effort that was kept out of the net by Pensacola’s goalkeeper Mike Clifford.
The Azaleas doubled their lead in the 27th minute after a low rolling ball from Schober found its way to Ibrahima Ndaw, who drilled the ball into the back of the net from point-blank range.
In the 33rd minute, Schober sent in a cross from the right wing that was slotted home by Ogbonna, giving the visitors a 3-0 lead.
Late in stoppage time, Schober sent in another cross that was poked home by Arad Lev-Ari for the fourth goal of the game for the Azaleas.
“I was always wide open on the right wing. That really is good for me cause I can take a touch and cross it in and we have good strikers like Chisom and Iba to finish my crosses,” said Schober.
The story changed drastically, as did the momentum, almost immediately after the halftime break. The 59ers’ Mikey Lightbourne, Pensacola’s leading scorer, put one away right after the start of the second half to bring the score to 4-1. Then in the 60th minute, a Pensacola set play was put away by Eric Buer to cut the Azaleas’ lead in half. Remnants of Pensacola’s collapse against Mobile last season were in the air, though this time the boot was on the other foot.
The game continued at a frenetic and frantic pace as Mobile tried to put away one more to stave off the energized 59ers attack. Meanwhile, despite the two conceded goals, AFC Mobile’s goalkeeper Dominic Nascimben made a few crucial saves in the second half to help the Azaleas maintain their lead, and Clifford also made some dynamic saves to help the 59ers hopes of a comeback stay in tact.
Then, in the 97th minute of the game, Pensacola played a long desperation ball forward. Both Nascimben and Mobile center back Vlad Margolin went to clear the ball out, but Margolin headed it back into the net for a last gasp own goal for Pensacola, which brought the score to 4-3. The referee blew the final whistle after the restart. In spite of the poor second half from Mobile, the 4-3 win kept Mobile at the top of the Eastern Conference heading into next week.
AFC Mobile returns to the Lip next week to take on their rivals from across the bay the Gulf Coast Rangers. Kickoff is at 7 p.m. Tickets are $10 and kids 12 and under are admitted for free.