The Charleston Battery claimed their second win in as many games as they were able to fend off a second half comeback by 2017 USL Champions Louisville City FC by a score of 2-1.
Attaula Guerra got things going in the eighth minute, before Neveal Hackshaw‘s first league goal gave the Battery some insurance in the 28th. The home side then dug in for much of the second half and held out for the win, despite a Taylor Mueller own goal with two minutes to go, to notch their second win of the week following midweek success over Indy XI.
Both sides began the game a bit unsteady, with eventual goalscorer Hackshaw passing a free kick straight to a Louisville attacker, before a through ball which would’ve given them a 1-on-1 with Joe Kuzminski, was cut out and cleared from danger.
Louisville nearly had a mistake of their own a little while later, as a backpass was misplayed and went under a defender’s foot, but Attaula Guerra was unable to run onto the ball to make the most of it.
But the home side would take the initiative a short while later, as Gordon Wild would play a ball to Obi Woodbine on the right edge of the box, before Woodbine’s low cross would find Guerra in the middle, forcing Greg Ranjitsingh into a kick save before the striker would collect his own rebound and stick the ball into the far corner.
The goal, coming just after eight minutes, was the fastest the Battery have scored in 2018, with no goals previously coming before the 20th minute. In such a pivotal game, first blood was always going to be important, and it seemed to take a bit of the pressure off the home side as the half went on.
A cross on the quarter of an hour from Louisville down the other end would be inviting, but have no takers as it went out for a goal kick.
After 24′, it was Wild creating again down the left, playing the goalscorer Guerra at the top of the box, who thought about a shot, but saw Kotaro Higashi through on the right, but they couldn’t connect as Higashi expected the league-leading striker to have a go at goal, and the pass was off-target, though allowed Higashi to run on, but his touch was poor and the shot went wide.
Angelo Kelly would lead a counter down the middle following a well won tackle by Tah Brian Anunga, earning his side a corner, which Gordon Wild took from the right.
Neveal Hackshaw would rise highest at the front post, powering an effort into the opposite corner and giving the home side some breathing room.
It was Hackshaw’s first league goal for the Battery, and well deserved from one of the team’s top performers so far this season. It was only fitting, also, that the goal came via the header, as Hackshaw’s signature afro has gained somewhat of a cult following, affectionately named “Curtis” by Battery faithful and the subject of a recent viral video from local news.
But, shortly after, Gordon Wild would misplace a pass in his own half, which gave Louisville the chance to create an opportunity, before a through ball into the box would be cut out by Joe Kuzminski.
A succession of Louisville free kicks shortly before the break were where the next few chances arose, but Kuzminski was alive to the only one on target as normal time expired as he got himself behind a header to knock it down and claim on the bounce.
And so, the Battery would go in at half time with a 2-0 lead. It was a luxury the Black and Yellow had seldom had this year, the home side going in not just in front, but with the added bit of insurance of the second goal as well.
And they would surely need it. Louisville were the quicker of the two teams out of the blocks in the second 45, and earned a free kick that forced a save out of Kuzminski in the opening two minutes.
On 49′, Gordon Wild’s cross looked to take a deflection out for a corner off of a Louisville defender’s head, but the referee gave a goal kick.
Brian Ownby would replace Magnus Rassmussen in the 55th, a sub that spelled trouble for the home side, as Ownby had previous of scoring some very important goals against the Battery.
Though on 58′ Tah Brian Anunga would play probably the pass of the night, wedging a ball forward with inch perfect precision for Gordon Wild, having just enough space to get to the ball past his defender before running on to the bouncing ball and shooting from just inside the box, forcing Ranjitsingh into a flying save. The attacker looked to take the ball down on his left, but the bounce dictated the shot with the weaker foot, which made it a little bit easier for the ‘keeper, though the move itself was a sight to see
After 79’, Patrick Okonkwo would replace Attaula Guerra, who could be pleased with his night’s work, scoring his league-high tenth goal of the year, bringing players into play with his hold up ability and showing the individual skill that’s made him such a treat to watch this year.
Things would end in tense fashion for the home side, however, as a cross from the right led to a loose ball in the box from a header down by a Louisville attacker in the middle, and was headed onto the bar and bounced back into play, and subsequently miscleared by Taylor Mueller and into the back of the net. The home side were complaining for a foul, and the referee spent all of about five minutes conferring with the linesman on the far side before giving the goal two minutes from the end of the match.
Six minutes were signaled by the referee, and the game was anyone’s for the taking at that stage, though it was Louisville applying the bulk of the pressure, with the home side unable to keep their foot on the ball.
That all changed, however, when Patrick Okonkwo sealed out Oscar Jimenez just inside his own half with four of the six minutes gone as he looked to see the game out by finding a teammate to pass to. In his frustration of being kept off the ball, Jimenez went over the ball and into Okonkwo’s ankle right in front of the referee, giving the official no choice but to show him the red card.
The incident was indeed pure frustration from the Louisville defender, who, if he had kept his head and won a tackle fairly, would’ve set his team on the attack with a little over a minute to go in search of an equalizer.
As such, the visitors would play the remaining minute and change with ten men, before the final whistle blew, giving the Battery the three points.
The win was only the Battery’s second over Louisville all-time, and gave them sole ownership of third place in the East, albeit with two more games played than Pittsburgh in second and Louisville below them.
The Battery next face the aforementioned Pittsburgh next Saturday, July 21st, away from home. Kick off is at 7PM.
TOP IMAGE: ATTAULA GUERRA’S INITIAL SHOT IS SAVED BEFORE THE REBOUND THAT OPENED THE SCORING AS THE BATTERY BEAT LOUISVILLE 2-1. ALL PHOTOS CREDIT ROSS ALMERS PHOTOGRAPHY