MEMPHIS, Tenn. – Akeem Ward’s first professional goal proved the difference as North Carolina FC took its second consecutive victory with a 1-0 win against Memphis 901 FC at AutoZone Park on Saturday evening.
Looking to claim a second consecutive win on home turf, Memphis started brightly and carved out the first good chance of the game in the seventh minute. Mark Segbers drove in from the right side and found Duane Muckette, whose return pass to Segbers set up a chance to shoot only for NCFC goalkeeper Alex Tambakis to close down quickly and save.
Memphis’ Brandon Allen also forced a pair of saves from Tambakis in the opening half-hour, the second on a turning shot from eight yards that the Greek shot-stopper reversed his balance to keep out of the net.
North Carolina took the lead on its first big chance of the game, however, as Pecka drifted in from the right to combine with Dre Fortune on the edge of the penalty area. Pecka then teed up a first-time shooting chance for Ward as he arrived late on the left, allowing the defender to curl a right-footed finish into the right corner of the net eight minutes before the halftime break.
901 FC almost responded immediately when Allen opened up a chance in the left side of the penalty area, but Tambakis was equal to the finish to the near post. The visitors then had a chance to double their lead seven minutes into the second half as Hadji Barry broke in behind the defense, but under pressure by Segbers was unable to beat 901 FC goalkeeper Jimmy Hague with his finish.
North Carolina threatened again two minutes later as D.J. Taylor delivered a low cross from the right that was redirected at the near post by Robbie Kristo, but his finish slid just wide of the left upright. Momentum then swung back the way of Memphis as Keanu Marsh-Brown fired a long-range shot that needed a fingertip save from Tambakis to keep it from the left corner of the net. On the ensuing corner Allen had another chance but his header at the back post went just wide of the right corner.
Memphis continued to try and find a way through for an equalizer, but NCFC’s defense proved difficult to break down as the final whistle approached. A near-post chance for Marsh-Brown was blocked away in the 73rd minute by North Carolina’s Sam Brotherton proved the last serious chance for the hosts as NCFC salted the game away in stoppage time.
USLChampionship.com Man of the Match
Akeem Ward, North Carolina FC – Ward put home a beautiful finish to decide the game and was also solid at the back, making four interceptions and nine recoveries to help NCFC to its second consecutive shutout.