The 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. An own goal by Carolina's defender Paul Hamilton produced the game-winning goal in the 90th minute. The RailHawks defender redirected a shot by forward Lucky Mkosana, extending the Rowdies unbeaten run to eight matches.
"We were fortunate to come across that late goal," said Rowdies Head 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 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.
In the 12th minute 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.
"I am here to help the team in any way I can," explained Barbara. "Picking up the assists tonight gave us the three points and we finally could give our fans the win they were waiting for."
The first two chances of the second half 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 Lucky Mkosana took a shot from the right flank which took a deflection off defender Paul Hamilton and went into the back of the net.
"We are still on the unbeaten run," commented Hill. "Now we are in first place in the standings and it is very important we come away with a good result next week when we travel to Carolina."
With tonight's win, the Rowdies are now in first place with 10 points and a +4 goal differencial.
Carolina: Ty Shipalane - 34th minute (Assisted by Enzo Martinez)
Tampa Bay: Evans Frimpong - 42nd minute (Assisted by Etienne Barbara)
Tampa Bay: Georgi Hristov - 60th minute (Assisted by Etienne Barbara)
Carolina: Enzo Martinez - 64th minute (Assisted by Brian Shriver)
Tampa Bay: Paul Hamilton - 90th minute (Own Goal)
Tampa Bay: Luke Mulholland - 73rd minute
Tampa Bay: Lucky Mkosana - 90th minute
Tampa Bay: Etienne Barbara - 90th minute
GK Diego Restrepo; D Frankie Sanfilippo (Captain), D Takuya Yamada, D Jay Needham, D Jordan Gafa; M Luke Mulholland, M Stuart Campbell, M Keith Savage; M Evans Frimpong, M Georgi Hristov; F Etienne Barbara (Lucky Mkosana 79')
GK Akira Fitzgerald; D Kupono Low, D Paul Hamilton, D Bryan Gaul, D Kevin Rutkiewicz; M Enzo Martinez (Brian Ackley 87'), M Kenney Walker, M Nick Millington, M Ty Shipalane (Cesar Elizondo 79'); F Zack Schilawski, F Brian Shriver (Captain) (Nicholas Addlery 90')
The Rowdies will once again face the Carolina RailHawks next Saturday, this time at WakeMed Soccer Park in Cary, NC. Tampa Bay’s next home match will be the following Saturday, September 21 against the Atlanta Silverbacks at Al Lang Stadium. For ticket information, call (813) 287-1539 or click here.