In a match that felt every bit the rivalry that it is from start to finish, AFC Mobile suffered its first loss of the season in front of a record-breaking crowd of 1,533, dropping to third place in a tight GCPL Eastern Conference.
An early 5th minute goal on a nice flick from Yan Livenu to Xavier Audergon, playing in a left midfield position, saw the Rangers take an early lead. Then, some great ball work from Cameron Cranton sent David Hall wide in the penalty area where he took on Vlad Margolin and Ben Fredrickson and finished the ball at the far post to give the boys from Baldwin County a two goal lead in the 16th minute.
“I feel like it just was not clicking towards the start of the game. I feel like there was a little bit of nerves,” said Mobile defender Mikey Conneh. “Once we conceded the two goals, the bounce back was good. We managed to get over that as a team.”
The bounce back for AFC Mobile began as a bit of nice combination work between Chisom Ogbonna and Conneh, as Ogbonna opened the left flank for Conneh to dribble down the wing, cut in, and finish a powerful ball from the touchline through the goalkeeper’s legs and into the far post in the 18th minute, breathing signs of life back into the Azaleas.
“I really didn’t expect to get the goal through the run,” stated Conneh, “but it was great that I did and the fans were absolute class as always, so it was a special moment for me to score my first goal in Mobile.”
A bit later, in the 22nd minute, Tilman Schober played Arad Lev-Ari into the box where he dribbled through the Rangers’ Kyle Kimbrell and Jordan Sinclair before softly finishing near post to pull the match even.
The frenetic pace of the match continued and in the 42nd as the Rangers found themselves with another dangerous opportunity when Sinclair delivered a long out-swinging corner to the head of Kearney, who played it to Livenu. Livenu delivered a powerful, on-frame header, causing Mobile goalkeeper Domenic Nascimben to make a difficult save to keep the match even going into the half.
Returning to the match all equal at 2-2, David Hall found himself played into an opening by Sinclair. A quick pull-back, followed by an outside the foot touch to find room for himself, had the Canadian bury a shot in the far-side’s upper ninety to give the Rangers a 3-2 lead in the 51st minute. Then, in the 67th minute, Hall was played a similar ball into similar space and found himself as a hat-trick hero for the Eastern Shore team, giving them a big 4-2 lead.
But Mobile, as they are apt to do, would not go away. In the 71st minute after a good bit of ball movement, the Azaleas finally opened up a solid Rangers backline. Sam Blackburn was played through and brought down in the penalty area. Ibrahima Ndaw converted the penalty against his brother, Rangers goalkeeper Barou Ndaw, but was injured on the shot and pulled from the game after bringing the score to 4-3.
Though Mobile frantically tried to pull back an equalizer, the Rangers’ stout defense was able to absorb pressure and walk out of Mobile with a nerve-wracking 4-3 victory, 3 points, and the top-of-the-table in GCPL’s Eastern Conference.
“We feel pretty disappointed in the locker room right now,” said Conneh, “with those early goals we feel that we gifted Rangers the game.”
Following other matches around the league, AFC Mobile sits in third place behind the Gulf Coast Rangers and Tallahassee Soccer Club who pulled out a dominant 3-1 win over Port City FC. The Azaleas are level with Tallahassee on points, but 1 goal behind the Battle Lions on goal differential in the second tie-breaker, having drawn against them 2-2 earlier in the season.
This week, AFC Mobile will travel all the way to Tallahassee, Florida to take on Tallahassee SC. The match kicks off at 7:00 PM CDT (8:00 p.m. EDT) at the Florida State University SportsPlex in Tallahassee, FL.
Mobile returns to The Lip on Saturday, June 22nd to take on Hattiesburg FC at 7:00 p.m.