MOBILE – After falling behind in the 9th minute, AFC Mobile rallied to secure a 2-1 victory over Florida Roots FC. The result puts AFC Mobile to 2-1-1 for their 2021 National Premier Soccer League Season, currently sitting in 3rd place in the NPSL Gulf Coast Conference.
Mobile started the match strong containing early possession, but an early deflection from a Roots corner led to a mess just outside the 18-yard box where a screened Salvador Plaza was beaten by a quick shot by the Roots’ Liam Kearns making a late run onto the bouncing clearance.
“I think there are some things that we can clean up because we put ourselves in another difficult position when it probably didn’t call for it,” AFC Mobile head coach Steve Wieczorek said.
From there the match shifted heavily in Mobile’s favor with AFC Mobile creating chances through the holdup play of Ibrahima Ndaw and some great combination work between Soane Deminguet and Ronaldo Fortune. Ndaw found Deminguet, who was able to cut around the Roots defense playing it onto Fortune on the left side. Fortune cut it on the six-yard box squaring the ball to a streaking Ndaw, but Roots goalkeeper Joshua Burton was able to get a piece of it, sending it out for a Mobile corner kick.
With Mobile still trailing in the 26th minute, Ndaw held the ball to play Jackson Wheatley down the wing. Wheatley played a quick pass to Deminguet who sent a late arriving Ndaw through; however, the ball was tapped out by the Root defense for a Mobile corner. The corner taken by Deminguet was headed on frame by Mobile’s Vlad Margolin, but Florida’s David Born was able to head out and deflect what would have been the Mobile equalizer.
In the 34th minute, a ball played from Mobile’s Andrew Rhoda found a streaking Wheatley underlapping towards the box. Wheatley played the ball to Fortune, who found an overlapping Margolin. Margolin’s cross found a powerful header by Ndaw, which was again saved by a header away from Ben Lebdaoui, who again denied Mobile their equalizer.
That equalizer would come in the 39th minute. Deminguet received the ball outside of the 18-yard box. After cutting in, he took a shot, which deflected off the hand of the Roots’ Agustin Vivas de Lorenzi. Ndaw was able to take the penalty shot and send the keeper in the wrong direction, equalizing the game at 1-1.
In the 43rd minute off a long throw from Stanley Joseph, Thierry Zabarel deflected the ball into the back of the net to give AFC Mobile a 2-1 lead.
“By chance, I’m at the right moment, at the right time, at the right area and from a deflection, I touched it with my thigh…and to be the one who scored the goal that gave us the win, that’s the most important thing I think,” said Zabarel after the game.
The game became increasingly physical as the second half progressed with a hard challenge between Wheatley and Roots keeper Joshua Burton, leading to Wheatley’s substitution at halftime for Mobile native Clairy Kengeye.
Kengeye, a long-time member of AFC Mobile, made his appearance known immediately after halftime, when in the 47th minute a ball played to him led to a powerful shot that was saved by Burton. Burton came up big once again for the Roots with a spectacular save on Kengeye, who rocketed a shot to the far post in the 74th minute.
As stoppage time approached, Vlad Margolin received his second yellow card, which left Mobile down a man for the full six minutes of stoppage.
“We got three points at home, so anytime that happens the guys are going to feel pretty good,” said Wieczorek, “I’m happy because we did win but I also think there are some things we can clean up.”
AFC Mobile moves to 2-1-1 on the season in the NPSL Gulf Coast Conference. The Azaleas hit the road next for a mid-week matchup at Pensacola on Wednesday, May 26, followed by the second leg of the Forgotten Coast Cup against rivals Port City FC in Gulfport. AFC Mobile will return home on June 5 to host Jacksonville Armada at 7:00 p.m. at the Archbishop Lipscomb Athletic Complex in Mobile.