SACRAMENTO, Calif. – A 10-man Sacramento Republic FC rallied with two goals in the final quarter-hour to take a 2-1 victory against Orange County SC on Wednesday night at Papa Murphy’s Park to move level on points with Reno 1868 FC at the top of Group A before their showdown this Saturday night.
Villyan Bijev scored the decisive goal in the 87th minute, just over half-an-hour after Rodrigo Lopez’s dismissal had left Republic FC looking to rally a man down.
“We’re the Indomitable Club, right? We’re the Indomitable City and I thought the players showed that indomitable spirit, that never say die attitude and ultimately that's what ended up getting us three points,” Republic FC Head Coach Mark Briggs said in the post-match press conference. “I’m extremely proud of the players, extremely proud of everyone associated with the club to be quite honest. That was a great result for everyone.”
Orange County got out on the front foot early and almost took the lead in the third minute as Darwin Jones sent a curling finish toward the right corner of the net from the left side of the penalty area only for Sacramento goalkeeper Rafael Diaz to make a good diving save.
There was little Diaz could do two minutes later, however, as Sean Okoli put the visitors ahead. After a cross from the right deflected high in the Sacramento penalty area, Okoli battled for possession as the ball came down, and as the defense froze the former Championship Golden Boot-winner clipped home a finish that found the bottom-left corner of the net.
Sacramento almost replied immediately as Ashkanov Apollon fired a long-range shot wide of the right post after a free kick had been cleared to him 30 yards from goal. Republic FC’s Cameron Iwasa then got a big chance on the half-hour mark as a good piece of pressure by Bijev deflected the ball to Iwasa offering a clear path to goal. Orange County goalkeeper Aaron Cervantes got off his line quickly, however, and made a big save one-on-one with the striker.
Cervantes came up big again six minutes into the second half as Sacramento carved out a chance through Lopez, who floated a cross from the right side of the penalty area to the back post where Kharlton Belmar put a powerful header on goal that the U.S. youth international was able to keep out. Jones also had a second good chance for the visitors with a turning shot that Diaz got down well to save after a knockdown header off a corner.
The road for Sacramento got steeper in the 58th minute, however, when Lopez was sent off for a foul on Jones that reduced the hosts to 10 men.
Orange County’s Danny Finlayson then threatened to double his side’s lead in the 66th minute with a fine long-range effort that Diaz turned wide of the right post with a diving save. With 11 minutes to go, however, the hosts got a small slice of good fortune to level as after working possession around the left edge of the penalty area the ball came to Belmar for a low shot that clipped off Dariusz Formella and found its way into the left corner of the net.
Diaz had to come up big again three minutes later to keep the game level as Okoli twisted and turned his defender after getting into the penalty area to create space for a low shot to the right corner that Diaz turned away.
With three minutes to go, however, Republic FC grabbed all three points. After Jaime Villarreal picked up possession centrally near the top of the penalty area, he found BIjev in a little space in the right side of the box. Bijev fired before the defender could get across to cover and snuck his finish home at the near post past Cervantes to send the hosts ahead, and eventually on to all three points.
USLChampionship.com Man of the Match
Villyan Bijev, Sacramento Republic FC – Bijev scored the decisive late goal for the hosts, and had a good game overall with three chances created and 19 of 25 passes completed overall.