AFC Cleveland returned to winning form with a convincing 4-1 victory against conference rival FC Buffalo.
As the rain subsided over Stan Skoczen Stadium at kickoff, the AFC Cleveland and FC Buffalo offenses poured chances upon the opposing goalkeepers. The Royals quickly put pressure on their travelling opponents, forcing a penalty kick in the 15th, which captain Admir Suljevic used to put his team ahead.
FC Buffalo countered with chances of their own, and were rewarded with a goal from Cameron Emerson in the 27th. The first half provided end-to-end action and balanced attack from both sides.
The Royals persistence on offense finally paid off late in the second half as NOOMA Man of the Match Tom Beck bagged a brace after Vinny Bell’s go-ahead tally in the 69’. Skye Harter’s return from a head injury in the 61st facilitated the Royals second-half goal output as the winger recorded two assists.
The contest was hard-fought by both teams, with FC Buffalo recording 16 fouls to AFC Cleveland’s eight. Six total yellow cards were issued on the night, five of which were issued to FC Buffalo players. Despite the lopsided foul chart, the Royals outlasted their opponent’s aggression to overmatch FC Buffalo with 17 shots to the visitors’ nine.
First Half Highlights
Chris Cvecko weaved through multiple defenders en route to the Royals first half-chance of the match in the fifth minute. The Royals right back lost control of the ball after cutting into the penalty box, but he had support from Beck,
A mistimed slide tackle from Cvecko in the 10th resulted in FC Buffalo’s first chance of the half, allowing Winkel to drive the ball down the left side before dishing a pass to Dragomir, whose shot was saved by Alex Ivanov.
Suljevic put in the first goal after a set-piece opportunity turned into a penalty kick for the hosts. The captain was taken down just outside the right side of the box and played a low, driven ball into traffic. Amid the chaos in front of goal, the ball landed to Cvecko, whose shot was turned away by the hand of an FC Buffalo defender. Suljevic stepped to the spot and buried his third goal of the season.
FC Buffalo’s Emerson evened the score with a fantastic volley from Bayley Winkel’s towering cross. Emerson’s right-footed shot gave Ivanov little chance for a save as it rose into the top left corner.
A chance in the 38th minute almost saw Vinny Bell head home a second goal for the Royals. The opportunity started when Brian Potocnik forced a turnover and advanced possession into the attacking half. Potocnik played Ryder Bell into space, and the left-winger’s cross connected with Vinny Bell for a header that drifted just left of goal.
FC Buffalo’s Cooper was issued a yellow card in the 42nd, giving AFC Cleveland another opportunity from a set-piece. Jordan placed the attempt near the penalty spot, and Vinny Bell rose above the FC Buffalo defense to attempt a pass across the face of goal. The pass was effective, finding Potocnik for an open shot in front of goal, but his left-footed volley was pushed left of frame.
Things got chippy at the end the half as a series fouls slowed the game. Vinny Bell received a yellow card in the action.
Second Half Highlights
Some fancy footwork from Beck in the 59th created a lane for Vinny Bell towards goal, but the forward’s shot was saved by Hogg.
A free kick shot by Shackleford about 25 yards from goal in the 65th made an awkward situation for Ivanov
Cvecko made a desperation slide tackle to save a potential FC Buffalo goal in the 67th. On a counter attack, it had appeared FC Buffalo were on a breakaway and just had Ivanov to beat, but the Royals right back used his high motor to track back and deny a clear goalscoring opportunity.
Harter connected with Beck on a corner kick as the Royals right winger scored on a header to extend their lead in the 74th.
A yellow card was issued to David Enstrom in the 80th after a hard tackle from behind on Cvecko.
A penalty kick in the 85th was converted by Tom Beck to put the match out of reach for FC Buffalo. The opportunity was the result of Vinny Bell beating two defenders to give the Royals offense a breakaway opportunity. Bell’s attempted shot was denied by Hogg, but the ball ricocheted to Ben Truax for an open shot. Once again, an FC Buffalo defender stood in the way of the shot and regained possession off the deflection. Before Truax could attempt a second shot, he was fouled by Hogg to earn the ensuing penalty kick.
Ivanov held the score at 4-1 on a point-blank opportunity for Akean Shackleford, who was on the receiving end of a cross. Ivanov reacted quickly with his right glove to send the shot over the crossbar.