Host Tampa Bay Rowdies climbed to the top of the NASL Standings on Saturday night after defeating the Carolina RailHawks 3-2 at Al Lang Stadium in St. Petersburg, Fla.
Forward Lucky Mkosona's cross was deflected and sliced into his own goal by RailHawks defender Paul Hamilton in the final minutes of the match, extending the Rowdies unbeaten run to eight matches.
"We were fortunate to come across that late goal," said Rowdies coach Ricky Hill. "It is great for the fans and it is a morale boost for our players. We created chances and luckily we were able to get the three points."
The visiting team went ahead in the 34th minute after a finish by midfielder Ty Shipalane, but the Rowdies would equalize in the 42nd minute after a goal by midfielder Evans Frimpong. After a 43 minute rain delay, play resumed with Rowdies forward Georgi Hristov scoring in the 60th minute. Just four minutes later, midfielder Enzo Martinez would equalize the match for the visiting team.
The match began with the Rowdies pressuring the RailHawks, with forward Etienne Barbara having the first chance of the match. After a lobbed pass by midfielder Luke Mulholland, Barbara controlled the ball with his chest and took a volley on goal but it would be blocked by Carolina’s defense.
With the Rowdies pushing forward, the RailHawks nearly took the lead after forward Brian Shriver took advantage of a mistake by Tampa Bay’s defense. Shriver had an open net, but Restrepo was able to cross the box and make a fantastic save.
Minutes later, Hristov was brought down in the box and the Rowdies were awarded a penalty kick. The Bulgarian stepped up to take it but this time he smashed it off the left post and it went out of play.
After the penalty kick, the match leveled out until the 34th minute when Carolina scored the first goal of the night. Shipalane received a through ball by Enzo Martinez, beating Needham with his pace and slotting it in the top left corner of the net.
The Rowdies would retaliate with the equalizer in the 42nd minute. Barbara shielded the ball very well until he slotted a perfect pass to an incoming Frimpong. The midfielder powered his shot past Fitzgerald to make it 1-1 in the dying minutes of the half.
Following delay to restart the second half, the first two chances came against the Rowdies, but it was Restrepo who made sure none of those opportunities ended up in the net.
A minute later after Restrepo’s one-on-one save on Shipalane, the Rowdies would go ahead after Hristov’s top-shelf goal in the 60th minute. Barbara once again picked up the assist on the Rowdies goal, placing a through ball to the Bulgarian, who smashed it into the top right corner of the net.
The lead wouldn’t last long, as Carolina found the equalizer in the 64th minute, off a Martinez shot that Restrepo could not get in front of.
After the equalizing goal, the Rowdies had several chances to score the game-winning with Hristov and Barbara combining for dangerous chances in the last 25 minutes.
In the dying moments of the match, second-half substitute Mkosana took a shot from the right flank which took a deflection and was then headed by Hamilton and went into the back of the net.
|New York Cosmos||31||14||9||4||1||10|
|Tampa Bay Rowdies||20||14||5||5||4||3|
|Minnesota United FC||20||14||6||2||6||2|
|Fort Lauderdale Strikers||18||14||5||3||6||-2|
|San Antonio Scorpions||10||14||3||1||10||-9|
|San Antonio Scorpions||20||12||6||2||4||4|
|Tampa Bay Rowdies||18||12||5||3||4||5|
|Minnesota United FC||14||12||4||2||6||-5|
|Fort Lauderdale Strikers||8||12||2||2||8||-14|