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FC Cincinnati 1 AFC Cleveland 0 Goals 117’ Djibi Fall (Assisted by: Andrew Wiedeman)
The reignition of the I-71 derby proved to be one of the more resilient performances in Royals history, but FC Cincinnati were victorious on the night thanks to a 117’ goal from star goalscorer Djiby. Despite a late onslaught of chances from FCC, AFC Cleveland looked to stretch the tie five more minutes to force penalty kicks before the dagger. AFC Cleveland showed early they were up to the challenge of facing a professional side.
FCC were able to give their star attackers Djiby and Eric Stevenson multiple chances to score, but the Royals showed poise and patience to keep a significant amount of possession and create a few chances of their own. For most of the match, it would have been difficult to tell the two Ohio clubs played in different divisions. Alex Ivanov’s Nooma Man of the Match performance kept the Royals in the game with 16 saves The second half offered more of the same, with AFC Cleveland generating a couple excellent opportunities in the opening 15 minutes of the frame. From the 60’ and beyond, FC Cincinnati turned the momentum and relentlessly attacked the Royals goal. The visiting side stayed true on defense though, and dealt with every look thrown at them. Ivanov got his first big stop of the night in the 12’ when he anticipated a pass over the Royals defense and used a diving punch to clear the ball from danger before FC Cincinnati attacker Andrew Wiedeman could pull off a shot. The Royals best chance of the first half came in the 24’ when Admir Suljevic was brought down in the Royals attacking half, but astutely kept playing to earn an advantage and play Ben Truax through the left channel. Truax was able to dribble to the left corner of FC Cincinnati’s six-yard box, but his shot hit the side of the net. FC Cincinnati’s best chance came in the 37′ FC Cincinnati’s when Andrew Weideman made a run into AFC Cleveland’s penalty area and attempted a cross behind the Royals defense.
The cross was met by Ivanov, and the shot fell to the foot of Djiby. What looked like a sure goal was incredibly denied by a recovering Coletun Long’s slide tackle. Truax had another chance and nearly scored in the 43’ by anticipating a teammate’s pass from midfield to win the ball in a dangerous area. His first touch put him in position to shoot, and his attempt nearly entered the goal after a deflection off goalkeeper Dallas Jaue before the ball was cleared off the line. Ryan Ware would almost put the Royals ahead at the start of the second half when he received the ball at the edge of the 18 in front of goal, took a touch to his left and ripped a shot beyond a diving Jaue. The shot hit the left goal-post and landed to Suljevic, who’s shot was intercepted by an FC Cincinnati defender. An opportunity in the 58’ had AFC Cleveland thinking it finally broke through, but a goal was not allowed by the assistant referee. The chance started when Tom Beck combined with Chris Cvecko to earn a corner kick. Declan McGivern connected with Skye Harter’s kick to put a strong headed shot on goal. The shot was at least level with the goal line before it was cleared away by FC Cincinnati defenders. AFC Cleveland players on the field and bench appealed for a goal; the sideline judge did not appear to see the ball cross the line. In the 60’, Djiby had a point-blank opportunity roughly eight yards from goal, but Ivanov stood tall once again to deflect the shot wide.
FC Cincinnati generated a variety of shots throughout the last 30 minutes, but Ivanov and the rest of the Royals defense dealt with corners and put themselves in the paths of shots to keep the score 0-0 until the end of regulation. By the end of regulation, FC Cincinnati had 22 shots with 9 corner kicks compared to AFC Cleveland’s 6 shots and four corner kicks. Appeals for a penalty came from FCC players and the Bailey in the 97’ when Long made a desperation sliding challenge on Djiby, but Long was deemed to have avoided making contact with the forward before clearing the ball. A headed chance for FCC defender Harrison Delbridge from a corner kick looked to have beat Ivanov in the 103’, but the shot soared just over the bar. Djiby stepped up to take a free kick in the 104’ 20 yards from goal, but the shot went directly to Ivanov, who initially punched the ball into the air before catching his own save. Ivanov stepped up again in the 108’ by parrying an uncontested shot from Jimmy McLaughlin.
FC Cincinnati would finally open the scoring in the 117’ when Andrew Wiedeman played a devastating cross into the path of Djiby, who’s far-post header would prove to be the difference. Ivanov would make another fantastic save on Djiby in the 120’, putting an accent on his stellar night despite the loss. AFC Cleveland returns to NPSL play this Saturday when they travel to New York for a match against Syracuse FC.