ST. PETERSBURG -- The undefeated Tampa Bay Rowdies extended their unbeaten run to 10 matches with a convincing 3-1 win over the Atlanta Silverbacks on Saturday night at Al Lang Stadium in St. Petersburg. Two goals from forward Georgi Hristov and one from midfielder Shane Hill lifted the Rowdies to their second straight win at home.
“I am very satisfied with the result tonight as it extends our streak to 10 matches,” said Rowdies head coach Ricky Hill. “We had to be resilient late in the game when Atlanta threw everything at us. We’re delighted to get three points and our great fans get to go home having enjoyed a fantastic match.”
Tampa Bay was inches away from opening the scoring in the 4th minute when midfielder Luke Mulholland whipped in a corner kick to forward Lucky Mkosana, whose header was cleared off of the line. The reigning Soccer Bowl champions almost broke the deadlock once more in the 5th minute when Evans Frimpong played a low cross across the six yard box to forward Georgi Hristov. His sliding shot went just wide of Atlanta’s goal.
The Rowdies began to emerge as the dominant side as the first half progressed, putting pressure on Atlanta’s goal and controlling possession. Neither side could really challenge the keepers, with both teams firing shots far above the goals on both sides of the pitch.
|Rowdies' Georgi Hristov takes a shot on goal that would end up winning the game for Tampa Bay|
The Silverbacks were awarded a penalty kick when Rowdies center back Jay Needham tripped up a Silverbacks attacker in the 38th minute. Ruben Luna’s shot was saved by Rowdies goalkeeper Diego Restrepo. The keeper increased his amount of penalty saves for this season, diving low to his right.
"The penalty save from Diego was the turning point in the match," commented Hristov. "After his save we were able to come out in the second half and get three important goals. Ricky told us that if we didn't get the win tonight we would regret it as we had the majority of the chances."
After the penalty was awarded to Atlanta, the game became much more open. The teams went back and forth attacking each other. The two traded chances for the remainder of the first half although neither team could break the deadlock, thanks to good play from Restrepo and Atlanta goalkeeper Joe Nasco.
The second half started with the Rowdies aiming to score the opening goal, which ended up coming in the 54th minute thanks to the Rowdies leading scorer Hristov. Mulholland initially centered in the ball from the right flank, finding a redirection from forward Devin Del Do at the near post. It was Hristov who would be at the far post to net the opening goal.
Just four minutes later, Mulholland once again led the Rowdies attack to their second goal of the night as his corner kick was headed in by Hristov. The Bulgarian now has 11 goals in the season, inching closer to the NASL scoring leaders. Midfielder Shane Hill extended the lead to 3-0 in the 64th minute after his strike from around 35 yards out went past goalkeeper Joe Nasco, who was unable to get a touch on it.
The Silverback went in search of the goal that would cut the lead, but Restrepo once again showed why he has been one of the top keepers in the league. Atlanta would cut the lead to two in the 75th minute after second-half substitute Horace James received a throw-in from Moroney and volleyed the ball past Restrepo.
"Despite their goal, I am happy that we were able to get another win at home," said Restrepo. "Obviously I am delighted with my save on the penalty kick but it makes it even better when it helps the team win."
The Rowdies would have several opportunities in the final 15 minutes of the match, but Nasco was firm in goal and maintained the Silverbacks down just two goals. Restrepo finished the match with 11 saves, including his low save on the penalty kick in the first half.
Tampa Bay: Georgi Hristov - 54th minute (Assisted by Devin Del Do)
Tampa Bay: Georgi Hristov - 57th minute (Assisted by Luke Mulholland)
Tampa Bay: Shane Hill - 65th minute
Atlanta: Horace James - 75th minute (Assisted by Shane Moroney)
Tampa Bay: Jordan Gafa - 45th minute
Atlanta: Shane Moroney - 61st minute
GK Diego Restrepo; D Frankie Sanfilippo (Captain) (Daniel Scott 45'), D Takuya Yamada, D Jay Needham, D Jordan Gafa; M Luke Mulholland, M Shane Hill, M Evans Frimpong; F Devin Del Do (Keith Savage 77'), F Lucky Mkosana, F Georgi Hristov
GK Joe Nasco; D Shane Moroney, D Beto Navarro (Horace James 62'), D Martyn Lancaster (Captain), D Willie Hunt; M Milton Blanco, M Richie Menjivar; M Pablo Cruz, M Danny Barrera, M Pedro Mendes (Lucas Paulini 74'); F Ruben Luna (Kellen Gulley 58')
Tampa Bay will play back-to-back away games, beginning with next Sunday’s clash against the New York Cosmos at James M. Shuart Stadium. The Rowdies will then face another historic rival the following week, as they travel down to Ft. Lauderdale to battle the Strikers on Saturday, October 5 at 7:30 p.m.
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