CARY, N.C. – North Carolina FC produced a three-goal comeback in the second half as Nazmi Albadawi’s 89th-minute finish proved the winner in a 3-2 win against Memphis 901 FC on Sunday night at Sahlen’s Stadium at WakeMed Soccer Park.
After Memphis claimed victory in dramatic fashion on Thursday night, it proved North Carolina’s night to turn the tables with a late winner of its own. After knocking on the door with the game level in the final 20 minutes, with a minute to go a ball into the left flank sent Steven Miller forward in pursuit. The veteran reached the byline and pulled back a cross that reached Albadawi as he entered the top of the penalty area, and a crisp half-volley picked out the bottom-left corner of the net to send the hosts ahead.
Memphis created one big final chance in second half-stoppage time as an angled cross from the right channel went over the head of NCFC defender D.J. Taylor and fell to Brandon Allen, but North Carolina goalkeeper Alex Tambakis made himself big as he came off his line and was able to smother the shot, reeling in the rebound to preserve all three points.
The game had opened cautiously as a header by Memphis’ Tommy McCabe that was comfortably saved by Tambakis the only real chance in the opening 20 minutes. The visitors struck first in the 24th minute, however, as a corner kick from the left by Marc Burch picked out Cal Jennings unmarked toward the back post that allowed the first-year pro to head home into the right corner.
Memphis then doubled its lead 11 minutes later as Rafael Mentzingen delivered a good pass to Raul Gonzalez on the right side, and Gonzalez’s low cross to the top of the six-yard area snaked its way through to Jennings for a sliding finish from close range.
North Carolina looked flat overall in the first half and its only serious threat on goal came from Albadawi two minutes before halftime as he sent a half-volleyed finish over the crossbar after a half-cleared free kick. The hosts came out of the gate firing to start the second half, however, and had a chance to pull a goal back in the 52nd minute as Hadji Barry fired wide of the right post after a low cross from the right by Manny Perez.
But NCFC halved its deficit three minutes later as a corner kick by Dre Fortune from the left fell in the six-yard area after a group of players contested the delivery and allowed Conor Donovan to tuck home a finish.
Donovan was then involved two minutes later as North Carolina leveled. The center back delivered a beautiful pass over the top to Robbie Kristo in the right channel, and his side-footed cross through the six-yard area found Barry, who finished from close range. The hosts then almost grabbed the lead moments later, but Kristo’s diving header off a good cross from the right by Perez slid wide of the left post.
Momentum stayed with NCFC as the half continued and Fortune almost provided the go-ahead goal with 15 minutes to go as he cut in from the left and fired a shot toward the top-right corner of the net that Memphis goalkeeper Jimmy Hague palmed away to safety. Fortune then got a big chance to put his side ahead in the 88th minute as Akeem Ward’s cross from the left found him arriving late at the penalty spot, but Fortune’s first-time shot went wide of the left post.
A minute later, though, Albadawi’s brilliant finish lifted North Carolina ahead and Tambakis’ key save preserved the victory to keep the hosts in the hunt for the postseason.
USLChampionship.com Man of the Match
Nazmi Albadawi, North Carolina FC – Albadawi put home an excellent finish to lift the hosts to victory after recording five shots and one key pass over the 90 minutes.