Paige Monaghan scored the only goal of the match. (Photo courtesy of Gotham FC)

ORLANDO – Paige Monaghan scored the lone goal to lift NJ/NY Gotham FC to a 1-0 win over the Orlando Pride in its 2021 NWSL Challenge Cup opener at Exploria Stadium Wednesday.

Monaghan tallied in the 79th minute. Ifeoma Onumonu sent a right-wing cross into the box to an advancing Paige Monaghan, who slotted it under the outstretched arms of goalkeeper Ashlyn Harris into the net.

“I think it was pretty much as we expected,” Gotham FC head coach Freya Coombe said. “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 center backs, 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.”

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 failed to convert as Harris made the save on a correct guess.

Both teams continued to battle back and forth, but Gotham FC’s back line withstood Orlando’s mounting offensive pressure.

Gotham FC goalkeeper DiDi Haracic recorded seven saves en route to a clean sheet.

The next plays North Carolina Courage Tuesday, April 20 at 6 p.m. ET.