NJ/NY Gotham FC (1-0-0, 3 pts) earned their first win in a hard-fought battle against Orlando Pride (0-1-1, 1 pt) to open their National Women’s Soccer League 2021 Challenge Cup campaign on Wednesday night at Exploria Stadium.
The first half saw an early handball in the box that awarded Gotham FC a penalty kick and an opportunity to jump out to a quick lead. Forward Naho Kawasumi stepped to the spot, but was unable to convert as Ashlyn Harris made the save on a correct guess.
Both teams continued to battle back and forth, but Gotham FC’s back line, anchored by centerback Gina Lewandowski, was able to withstand Orlando’s mounting offensive pressure. Paige Monaghan scored the match’s only goal in the 79th minute when she slotted the ball into the net on a cross into the box from Ifeoma Onumonu. Throughout both halves, Gotham FC goalkeeper DiDi Haracic was continually called upon and recorded seven saves on the night en route to a clean sheet, earning her the Saker Shoprite Player of the Match.
Gotham FC returns to the pitch in their Challenge Cup home opener presented by Avaya against North Carolina Courage (1-0-0, 3 pts) on Tuesday, April 20. The game is set to kick off at 6:00 p.m ET.
Gotham FC Head Coach Freya Coombe:
“I think it was pretty much as we expected. We expected Orlando to be pretty direct with their approach within the game and we knew they had key personnel and how they were looking to catch us behind our back line. I was really pleased with our ability of our centerbacks, Gina Lewandoski and Mandy Freeman, to be able to deal with it, combining with DiDi to be able to continue to build so I was really pleased with that element.”
79’ Paige Monaghan (Ifeoma Onumonu) – NJY 1, ORL – 0
The first goal of night came late in the second half. Ifeoma Onumonu sent a well-paced cross from the right side into the box to an advancing Paige Monaghan who was able to slot it under the outstretched arms of Ashlyn Harris into the net.
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