By Benjamin Peacock
Three minutes is all it took for the Little Rock Rangers to put one in net for the first goal of 2019 in a pre-season match against Lone Star Conference team Tyler FC. The Rangers won 3-0 in a match that featured dominant possession and a plethora of shots.
The Rangers quickly dispossessed Tyler FC from the kickoff in a 4-3-3 formation. The first goal was scored by forward Sabelo Hlongwane, returning for his second season with the Rangers, and it set the tone for the entire match.
“I worked really hard in preparation for this season and to start out with a goal means all that hard work is paying off,” Sabelo said of getting the first goal.
The Rangers held possession for nearly the entire first half. Keeper Walid Birrou only had one challenge that came at 40′ when midfielder Nyasha Dube was booked and Tyler FC took a free kick just past midfield. Off the boot of Tyler’s goalkeeper, who came all the way out to take the kick, the ball sailed straight into Birrou’s hands.
“We have had plenty of opportunities to score a second goal. We have to be more clinical in doing that,” head coach Will Montgomery said at the half.
Much as it did not take long to net one in the first half, winger Donald Benamna added to the Rangers lead shortly into the second half after a foul was called for holding on midfielder Trevor Reed. Benamna sent the rocket in from around 28 yards to make it 2-0.
Montgomery made his first substitution at 54′ with Blain Hickman coming in for striker Alex Guadron, who had several aggressive shots in the first half. Hickman had a nice chance at 60′ that rolled on the outer edge of the net, just off the fingertips of the Tyler keeper. The resulting corner kick went to Benamna who redirected with a header to catch the upper corner of the goal for his second tally of the night.
Montgomery made three more subs with Dan Amaro, Sam Tejada, and Jack Butler respectively giving Benamna, Dube, and Sabelo the rest of the night off. After the match, Montgomery was happy with the additional pressure his team put on Tyler FC.
“I told them to press them real hard, and we were successful in winning possession of the ball in the attacking half and I was very pleased with that,” Montgomery said. “Now we have to finish our goals. Finish the opportunities they are giving us.”
With the early goals in both halves, whatever gameplan Tyler FC had for the Rangers was put into disarray, resulting in the clean sheet for Birrou. Next, the Rangers will face Boca FC at War Memorial on April 13 at 7:00 pm in the second of three pre-season match ups. The friendly matches not only help the coaching staff finalize the team roster, but also provide the invaluable experience of building team cohesion.
“This is how we determine whether we are going to be ready for the season or not,” Benamna said. “It was a good test for us to get into the momentum of the league.”
Click HERE to view photos from the match.