The Fort Lauderdale Strikers lead the Tampa Bay Rowdies by a score of 1-0 after the first half of play at Lockhart Stadium in beautiful Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
Martin Nuñez gave the hosts the lead over their in-state rivals with a clever finish in the 22nd minute of the match. The goal came after several Strikers attacks on the Rowdies’ goal.
“We changed the system and played a 4-1-4-1 and I think we probably should have scored a second goal,” said Strikers assistant coach Raoul Voss. “We tried to come out and be more aggressive. We will play exactly the same way in the second half but will be more careful at the back.”
Rowdies goalkeeper Diego Restrepo was the busiest player in the first half, making five saves to keep his side in the game.
The Strikers started the match on the front foot, and nearly found the opening goal inside of seven minutes. Diego Restrepo was forced into a diving save at his near post to deny his namesake Walter Restrepo from giving the Strikers an early advantage.
Nuñez broke the deadlock tapping in after a Stefan Antonijevic flick-on header. The big defender rose the highest to meet a cross from the right, heading to back post where Nuñez was waiting to send the ball over the line and into the net.
Paulo Jr. had a chance to double the lead a half-hour into the match after going in alone on Diego Restrepo. The Brazilian telegraphed his shot and the goalkeeper was able to get down to his left to save.
Within a two-minute span Yaikel Pérez and Iván Guerrero forced Diego Restrepo into a pair of saves, Paulo Jr. cannoned an effort off the post and Darnell King flashed a header over the bar.
Diego Restrepo produced his best save of the half just five minutes before time. Paulo Jr. carved out some space from the top of the box and unleashed a rocket on goal. The Venezuelan-American keeper was equal to the shot, diving to his left with an acrobatic save.
“Very disappointed in our first half showing,” said Rowdies coach Ricky Hill. “Strikers came out with an aggression. Our guys didn’t come out with any intensity or purpose and once that happens it’s very hard to wrestle back the game. Without our goalkeeper we would have been down two or three goals. L ots of work to do in the second 45, we need to do a lot better, so I’m hoping to see the correct reaction from our side.
”GOAL SUMMARY – Martin Nuñez 3 (Stefan Antonijevic 1)- 22
FORT LAUDERDALE (4-4-1-1) – Richard Sánchez; Darnell King, Rafael Alves, Stefan Antonijevic, Iván Guerrero; Walter Restrepo, Pecka (C), Carlos Salazar, Paulo Jr.; Martin Nuñez; Yaikel Pérez
TAMPA BAY ROWDIES (4-3-3) – Diego Restrepo; Frankie Sanfilippo (C), Jay Needham, Takuya Yamada, Andres Arango; Keith Savage, Shane Hill, Stuart Campbell; Luke Mulholland, Evans Frimpong, Lucky Mkosana
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