Category: Game Recap

Goals from Deminguet and Ndaw Give AFC Mobile 1-0 Victory Over Florida Roots

Photo Credit: Seth Laubinger

AFC Mobile returned to winning ways in Panama City with a 2-1 victory of Florida Roots Futbol Club

The Azaleas created several chances in the first half, with Iba Ndaw and Ronaldo Fortune nearly finding the back of the net. However, Roots goalkeeper Zach Moenter put on a stellar goalkeeping display to keep the score level at 0-0, heading into halftime.

“In the first half, we competed. Did we execute the tactics we wanted against them? I don’t think so. No, to the level I was hoping for. We still created opportunities. We should have been one up at halftime.” AFC Mobile head coach Steve Wieczorek said.

The start of the second half saw Mobile’s Soane Deminguet and Jackson Wheatley enter the match. This was the first game back for both players after dealing with injury troubles. Both substitutes immediately made their presence known by performing a nice bit of linkup play, but Roots easily cleared their chance.

Deminguet opened the scoring in the 57th minute after Eddie Dakwa played a long diagonal ball to Ronaldo Fortune. Fortune slipped the ball to Deminguet and ripped a shot from outside the box and past Moenter to give the Azaleas a 1-0 lead.

“We (Deminguet and Fortune) have a pretty good connection together. We try to connect together. He saw a little pocket, so he put it to me. On my first touch, I saw a defender coming right at me, so I put my position forward and felt like I had to shoot.” Deminguet said.

The Azaleas doubled their tally in the 72nd minute when goalkeeper Salvador Plaza played a long ball the bounced right in front of Iba Ndaw, who slotted the ball home.

Florida Roots was able to get one goal back in the 78th minute. Mobile’s Salia Carr was called for a handball in the box, and Liam Kearns put the ball past Plaza. However, it was too late to make a difference, and the Azaleas brought back a 2-1 win to Mobile.

AFC Mobile Draws New Orleans Jesters 1-1

Photo Credit: Michael Shartava

AFC Mobile drew the New Orleans Jesters 1-1 on Saturday night at the Archbishop Lipscomb Athletic Complex to remain unbeaten at home in the 2021 season.

“The Jesters are a tried and true NPSL club. So the positives – we’ve played them twice, we’ve got two draws. They were competitive games, we’re evenly matched. Maybe they had a little bit more of it today, but again we’ve had enough chances to win games and win this game tonight. So I’m proud of the guys’ effort,” AFC Mobile head coach Steve Wieczorek said. 

It was an even affair in the first twenty minutes of the match with few scoring opportunities for both sides. Mobile’s Ronaldo Fortune provided a spark for the home side when goalkeeper Will Blake played a long ball out of his own box, finding the feet of Fortune in behind the New Orleans defense. Fortune was taken down in the box and the home fans clamored for a penalty, but it was not given. The Azaleas opened the scoring in the 20th minute thanks to some fantastic combination play between Fortune and midfielder Soane Deminguet. Fortune played the ball to Deminguet, who dribbled down the left wing and sent an arching cross back to Fortune at the top of the box. Fortune chested the ball down and struck it with his first touch, sending it soaring over New Orleans’ keeper Lemoy Graham and into the back of the net. 

“Credit to Soane, it was beautiful play leading up to the goal,” Fortune said. “To be fair, he played the ball to my chest and I had a good touch and I didn’t have enough time to dribble or anything, so I just thought ‘you know what? The coaches always tell me to shoot, so why not shoot.’”

Much of the first half saw New Orleans pressing hard to equalize, forcing Mobile’s goalkeeper to make a few spectacular saves to keep the home team’s lead. However, Blake was beaten in the 45th minute when New Orleans’ Sheldon Green sweetly struck a ball at the top of the box and into the Mobile net, making the match 1-1 at the half. 

It was a defensive struggle to start the second half with both teams finding space and scoring opportunities hard to come by. Mobile saw a few chances near the end of the half when Fortune played a slick, low-rolling cross to Iba Ndaw. Ndaw tried to find Fortune to complete the one-two, but the ball was easily cleared by the Jesters. Late in the match, Mobile’s Blake Palmquist was tightly marked and his shot soared over the crossbar. 

The 1-1 draw keeps Mobile in fourth place in the NPSL Gulf Coast Conference standings. The Azaleas will play two home matches this week, welcome the second-place Southern States this Wednesday, and Pensacola FC on Saturday night. New South Alabama head football coach Kane Wommack will join us to do the opening coin toss on Wednesday night. Next Saturday night will be our annual Military Appreciation Night where military personnel are admitted for free with a valid ID. Tickets for both matches can be purchased here.

AFC Mobile Beat Jacksonville Armada FC 1-0 Behind a Stout Defensive Performance

Photo Credit: Seth Laubinger

AFC Mobile rebounded strongly from a tough road loss a week earlier, returning home to defeat Jacksonville Armada 1-0 in NPSL action. The game-winner came in the 65th minute of the second half when Thierry Zabarel headed the ball into the back of the net off an Azaleas corner kick. It was just the team’s second corner kick of the match, with the first just a minute earlier.

Jacksonville had the run of play for much of the first half, but Mobile’s backline did its job and kept the Armada from any serious chances. The Armada had a chance in the 8th minute, but defender Mario Gratzl defended it well and it went out for a corner. AFC Mobile had its own chance in the 15th minute. Striker Ronaldo Fortune stole the ball at midfield, sprinted down the right side of the field, but his cross was unable to find a teammate and drifted harmlessly out of bounds. 

In the 19th minute, the Armada’s Jovoney Brown got through on goal but was fouled by Salia Carr. Carr picked up a yellow, and Carr was able to get his head on the ensuing free kick to maintain the scoreless tie.

Things got more interesting toward the end of the first half. In the 45th minute, striker Iba Ndaw had a great chance on goal, running straight down the center of the field. But his shot went straight into the hands of Armada goalkeeper Brandon Stam. Right after, the Armada stormed down the field and put the ball in net for an apparent 1-0 lead. But the referee had blown his whistle and called off the goal, instead awarding a penalty kick to Jacksonville just before halftime.

Javoney Brown took the kick for the Armada, but in the moment of the match, the penalty was miraculously saved by AFC Mobile goalkeeper William Blake. After the game, Blake said that “it was all a guessing game, but I guessed correctly this time.”

AFC Mobile came out even more energized to start the second half. While Blake’s save almost certainly played a part, Blake also gave credit to the team’s mentality.

“We’ve come out slow in the past couple of second halves,” Blake explained, “so our goal this time was to come out, never switch off, keep the pressure on, and defend defend defend.”

Blake ended the night with a clean sheet, thanks to that save and a stellar performance from the Azaleas’ back line. He had 15 saves, two shy of the club record set by Domenic Nascimben in 2019.

In the second half, AFC Mobile got its first corner kick of the night in the 63rd minute. That corner went nowhere but led to another corner kick a minute later. And this time, Soane Deminguet’s kick found Theirry Zabarel for what turned out to be the game-winner.

AFC Mobile Coach Steve Wieczorek was proud of his team’s effort, especially after an uninspired 2-0 loss to Port City FC a week earlier.

“We had a really long and difficult week together, to be quite honest,” Wieczorek said. “But I know that this group is very talented, and I know that we have a lot more to give. And I told them that this is a ‘make or break’ performance for a lot of the players… and I think that kind of kick-started some of them. And then also, we knew how good they were. So we had a game plan, and we executed it very well.”

The win now leaves AFC Mobile in fourth place in the NPSL Gulf South Conference, with 10 points and a record of 3 wins, 1 draw, and 3 losses. The Azaleas are undefeated at home and will play three more matches at Archbishop Lipscomb Stadium before their next road trip. AFC Mobile’s next match is Saturday, June 12th at 7PM (CT), when they host New Orleans Jesters.

AFC Mobile Falls to Pensacola FC 2-1

Despite a dominant first-half performance, AFC Mobile suffered a 2-1 loss to Pensacola FC on the road on Wednesday night.

Early in the first half, Zubair Taylor chipped a lovely ball over the Pensacola backline to Ronaldo Fortune, but Fortune could not quite get on the end of the ball and was easily collected by Pensacola’s Jules Dechert.

Mobile’s best chance came in the 29th minute when Fortune played a great ball to Soane Deminguet. Moments later, Clairy Kengeye made a run at the Pensacola defender at the top of the box and won the ball. Kengeye took a quick shot, but it was saved by Dechert.

“These games are very difficult. We knew that coming in. We wanted to play on the front foot, we wanted to apply our game model. Unfortunately, we didn’t take chances that we created in the first half and it put us in a difficult position in the second.” AFC Mobile head coach Steve Wieczorek said.

Pensacola scored early in the second half when Jordi Ramon headed the ball in off a Pensacola corner. The home team doubled their lead in the 63rd minute when Prince Owusu scored on a Pensacola counter-attack.

In a fixture known for late dramatics, the Azaleas nearly pulled a goal back. However, Mario Gratzl’s shot was touched by Jackson Wheatley in an offside position, nullifying the goal.

Mobile cut the lead to one in the 89th minute when Iba Ndaw forcefully headed a ball downward off of a corner into the Pensacola net. However, the visitors could not find the net a second time, and the match ended 2-1.

AFC Mobile take on Port City FC on Saturday in Gulfport, Mississippi in the second leg of the Forgotten Coast Cup. AFC Mobile currently holds a 2-1 lead in the rivalry competition. The Cup is presented to the team with the better aggregate score between the two regular season matches between the teams.

AFC Mobile Rallies to a 2-1 Victory over Florida Roots FC

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. 

10-man AFC Mobile Score Late to Secure a 2-1 Win in the First Leg of the Forgotten Coast Cup

MOBILE – A late goal from Ronaldo Fortune gave 10-man AFC Mobile a win over rivals Port City FC in its home opener, the first leg of the 2021 Forgotten Coast Cup, a rivalry trophy handed to the aggregate regular-season winner of the two clubs. The 2021 edition is the first in the NPSL for the former GCPL rivals.

It was a difficult start for the Azaleas, as Port City scored in the fourth minute of the match after a short corner was floated into the box by Renan Diniz and headed over AFC Mobile goalkeeper Salvador Plaza by Guilherme Bittencourt. Minutes later, the Sounders were awarded a penalty after the referee spotted a handball in the box. Port City’s CJ Smith stepped up to take the penalty, but Plaza saved his shot, drawing a roar from the 1,246 fans in attendance.

“Sal made a very very good save and kind of energized us a little bit,” said AFC Mobile head coach Steve Wieczorek. “Obviously, playing in front of 1300 fans helps.”

Possession shifted in Mobile’s favor after Plaza’s save. Mobile’s Soane Deminguet’s chance in the 20th minute was saved by Port City’s Owen Betz. In the 24th minute, Port City’s Andrew Elkins saw a yellow card for a professional foul on Mobile’s Iba Ndaw in the midfield. 

In the 37th minute, Fortune’s shot was saved by Betz. Fortune collected the rebound and played the ball across the box to Jackson Wheatley, who dragged his shot wide – one of several chances created by Fortune in the game. In the 43rd minute, Mobile’s Ndaw received a pass, turned to beat the Port City midfield, and played a one-two with Fortune. Ndaw’s chance sailed wide left. 

In the 46th minute, AFC Mobile’s Zubair Taylor was sent off for a late, high tackle, reducing the Azaleas to ten men just before halftime.

Despite the red card at the end of the first half, the Azaleas started the second half on the front foot. In the 53rd minute, Fortune played a ball over the Sounders’ backline and found the feet of a charging Soane Deminguet, who received the ball with his back to goal, touched back to his right and slotted the ball home to level the match for the Azaleas. 

The teams traded chances for the next twenty minutes, with both keepers called into action. The last fifteen minutes saw a flurry of subs for the Azaleas as Erik Aispuro entered the game for Thierry Zabarel and Blake Palmquist entered for Darrius Rashid, who made his AFC Mobile debut on the night. 

The deadlock was finally broken in the 84th minute when Sounders attempted to clear Soane Deminguet’s corner attempt. Fortune picked up the rebound, and his shot rolled into the lower right-hand corner of the net, giving the Azaleas a 2-1 lead. 

“Honestly, I missed five opportunities,” Fortune said. “I knew the team needed something. I tried to be as patient as possible, and when I saw the little gap, I just took it.” 

  Wieczorek had high praise for the attacking midfielder. 

“We brought him in from the University of Mobile, where he’s an all-conference first-teamer,” he said. “He’s a guy that’s going to get ten, fifteen goals in a college season. He just needed to find his feet with his new teammates in a new system playing in a position he doesn’t play for in his college team. I knew the goals would come. Today could’ve been more than one, and I’m excited to see what he can deliver over the course of the season. 

Wieczorek did not reserve his praise for the attack. He noted that the Azaleas played ten men down for 45 minutes and gave his defense high marks.

“We played 45 minutes down ten men with a back three, and those guys defended valiantly. Sal played a very good game in the second half, and the back three with our center midfielders in front of them allowed the opportunity to attack the way we did.” 

This was the Azaleas’ first win of the season, and first in their NPSL history. The win gives Mobile four points from three games and sends them to third in the NPSL Gulf Coast Conference table.

Mobile will host Florida Roots in its next match, May 22 at 7 p.m. in Mobile. The second leg of the Forgotten Coast Cup will be contested the following week, May 29th, in Gulfport. The winner of the aggregate score of the two regular-season matches will be presented the rivalry trophy, which is currently in AFC Mobile’s trophy case after the 2019 season.

AFC Mobile To Assume Management of Mobile County Soccer Complex

AFC Mobile has agreed with Mobile County to assume management of the recently opened Mobile County Soccer Complex, beginning October 1st. 

“We’re grateful the County has entrusted us with the management of this Complex, and look forward to managing it as it grows into one of the top facilities in the region,” AFC Mobile CFO Sean Landry said. “Special thanks is owed to Commissioner [Connie] Hudson, who has been a great partner for AFC Mobile and for the soccer community for years. Soccer in Mobile has never had more momentum than it does at this moment, and the on-going development and use of these fields will help the Mobile soccer community realize its full potential.”

The Complex, located on Halls Mill Road near the intersection of Interstates 10 and 65, formally opened in July of this year. The project, spearheaded by County Commissioner Hudson, is planned in three phases, the first of which consists of three lighted fields and an unlighted practice field. The Complex will eventually consist of 10 fields, including a FIFA-regulation championship field with seating for approximately 1,000 spectators. 

AFC Mobile’s vision for the complex includes drawing regional and national soccer tournaments to the city of Mobile as well as creating unique programming to ensure the fields are highly utilized and valuable to everyone in Mobile County. Furthermore, AFC Mobile hopes to ensure the complex is the destination for soccer in Mobile by making the complex available and affordable to all users in the area for practices, games, and tournaments. 

AFC Mobile plays to scoreless draw in Tallahassee

TALLAHASSEE – Missing three starters and with another limited by injury, AFC Mobile kept a clean sheet on the road for the second time this season on Saturday, playing Tallahassee S.C to a 0-0 draw in the Floridian capital. The draw results in a three-way tie on points atop the Gulf Coast Premier League’s Eastern Conference, with the Gulf Coast Rangers holding the head-to head-tiebreakers against the Azaleas and the Battle Lions. 

“We’ve come here with a plan. The plan was to make sure we didn’t concede today. We’ve reached that task,” said AFC Mobile goalkeeper Dominic Nascimben. “And, at minimum, coach Steve [Wieczorek] gave us the task of making sure we had at least a tie. So we’ve hit both tasks.”

AFC Mobile made its longest road trip of the season without defender Andrew Rhoda, midfielder Arad Lev-Ari and leading goalscorer Iba Ndaw, all of whom were resting with minor injuries. Those absences led to a first-team debut for defender Salia Carr and the return of long-time Mobilian Clairy Kengeye. Midfielder and frequent captain Tilman Schober, nursing a knock as well, started the match on the bench for the first time this season.

The game opened with few chances for either side. Tallahassee’s first big chance came in the 19th minute after a Mobile giveaway. However, Nascimben came up with the first of several big saves in the game. Tallahassee nearly took the lead in the 34th minute, but its shot bounced off the far post, resulting in a scramble in the box, ultimately cleared by the Mobile defense. 

The teams entered halftime deadlocked at 0-0. Mobile’s first chance of the second half came in the 50th minute after Tilman Schober played a ball to Chisom Ogbonna, whose shot sailed over the crossbar. The home team pinned the Azaleas back early on in the second half, dominating possession. However, near the 60th minute mark, Mobile was able to shift the play into their attacking third. The Azaleas were awarded a free kick in the 65th minute. Mikey Conneh stepped up to take the kick, but his shot was rocketed into the hands of Tallahassee’s keeper. 

In the 70th minute, Tallahassee was given a free kick of their own. Their shot was tipped just over the bar by Nascimben. Mobile cleared the ensuing corner and then the subsequent throw-in. 

Mobile’s best chance of the match came in the 82nd minute when Clairy Kengeye’s powerful, low-rolling effort was collected by the Tallahassee keeper. The Azaleas would have one last in chance in the 93rd minute when Erik Aispuro’s shot was sent out for a corner that was easily handled by the Battle Lions. Shortly after, the full-time whistle blew with the match ending in a 0-0 draw. 

“I think the boys played their socks off today. They’re happy with the result. They put the effort in today…and we just kept grinding it out and got the result. I can’t fault anyone today. All the boys are solid in the back. So I’m really proud of the lads in front of me.” Nascimben said. 

Next up for the Azaleas is a home match against Hattiesburg FC on Saturday, June 22nd. Kickoff is at 7 p.m. at the Archbishop Lipscomb Athletic Complex. Tickets are $10 and kids 12 and under are admitted for free. 

AFC Mobile Falls Short to Gulf Coast Rangers in First Loss of the Season

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.

AFC Mobile Holds On To Beat Pensacola FC 4-3

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.