By William Azzi
Both semi-final matches had to be settled by penalty kicks since both games ended in ties, even after 30 minutes of overtime. As luck would have it, both winners were VMSL teams as Inter FC defeated the Fraser Valley’s North Delta Lions while EDC Burnaby edged the Vancouver Island’s Cowichan FC. As a result, the final will be played between two VMSL teams, Inter FC and EDC Burnaby.
INTER FC – NORTH DELTA LIONS 2-1 (PKs): On Saturday, at South Memorial Park in Vancouver, Inter FC advanced to the Provincial Cup finals by defeating the visiting North Delta Lions on penalty kicks—after the match had ended in a 1-1 overtime tie. Inter FC controlled most of the play and attacked relentlessly during the early stages of the contest. The North Delta Lions, on the other hand, defended tenaciously and occasionally counter-attacked dangerously.
During the first half, Inter FC came close to taking the lead on a few occasions, but efforts by Milad Mehrabi, Bryan Fong, and Adriano Clemente were well-saved by goalkeeper Toscanny Pandu-Oesman. Inter’s super-sub—Sebastian Crema—entered the field in the second half and immediately made an impact. Very early in the second half, Crema made a darting run towards the North Delta goal, beat several defenders, only to have his final shot bounce off the goalpost. Shortly thereafter—at about the 50th minute mark—Crema combined with Jacob Lensky to send Milad Mehrabi flying towards the North Delta goal. Mehrabi then proceeded to send a low cross into the Lions’ penalty area to a wide-open Liam Miller, whose subsequent tap-in gave Inter FC the well-deserved lead.
At this juncture, the North Delta Lions threw caution to the wind in search of the equalizer. The visitors came close to tying things up at about the 65th minute mark when Jeff Crawford unleashed a wicked full-volley from just outside the penalty area. However, Inter’s goalkeeper—Andrew Fink—pulled off a miraculous save to maintain his team’s thin lead. Soon thereafter, however, the Lions were able to equalize when a long-range shot from 19-year old Sean Northcote took a weird dip, wrong-footed Andrew Fink, and found the back of the net.
Needless to say, Inter FC fought back aggressively in search of the winning goal but some excellent defending on the part of the Lions’ Jeff Crawford, Kamal Gill, and Sean Northcote kept the score at 1-1 till the final, regular time whistle. The overtime period was more or less the same as the regular time as Inter FC dominated most of the action and created some excellent goalscoring opportunities. However, some brilliant goalkeeping on the part of North Delta’s Toscanny Pandu-Oesman kept the vaunted Inter FC attacker at bay. As a result, the game ended in a 1-1 tie and the outcome had to be settled on penalty kicks.
Inter FC’s first four penalty-kick shooters—Colin Streckmann, Milad Mehrabi, Kam Amini, and Joseph Marrello converted their spot-shots, while goalkeeper Andrew Fink made a couple of brilliant saves to help his team claim the victory. The entire Inter FC team played extremely well, but special mention should be made of goalkeeper Andrew Fink for having made 3 unbelievable saves—1 in regulation time and 2 in the shoot-out. Also, midfielders Colin Streckmann, Joseph Marrello, and Kam Amini turned in outstanding performances. The victory advances Inter FC to the Provincial Cup finals against fellow VMSLers EDC Burnaby.
EDC BURNABY – COWICHAN FC 3-2 (PKs): Also on Saturday, at Burnaby Lake West, EDC Burnaby twice bounced back to secure a 2-2 overtime tie against the Vancouver Island champions—Cowichan FC—and eventually won the match on penalty kicks.
The first part of the match was very evenly played as both teams took turns attacking and defending. The best chances for EDC Burnaby were produced by Rizal Ganief and Ylya Malek, but their shots barely missed the net. As luck would have it, it was Cowichan FC that took the lead midway through the first half when Craig Gorman raced down the left flank before sending an impeccable cross onto the path of Dan Cato, whose subsequent header gave goalkeeper Hugo Vasquez no chance whatsoever.
The Chileans bounced back tenaciously and came close to knotting the score on a few occasions, but efforts by Rizal Ganief and Habib Mohammed were brilliantly saved by goalkeeper Scott Brown.
Early in the second half—at about the 52nd minute mark—EDC Burnaby was finally able to score the equalizer when Rizal Ganief took advantage of a goal-mouth scramble—caused by a great cross from Ducivan DeSouza—and clinically finished off the play from close range.
Midway through the second half, Cowichan FC retook the lead, once again on a great cross from Craig Gorman. This time the recipient was Andreas Algarin who left-footed the ball into the back of the EDC net without a moment’s hesitation.
The home team fought back tenaciously in an attempt to once again knot the score, but efforts by Rizal Ganief and Habib Mohammed went awry. Very late in the game, EDC Burnaby was finally able to equalize when Eric Ray made a fantastic run down the right wing before crossing the ball into the Cowichan 18-yard box. An unmarked Rizal Ganief received the pass and quickly blasted the ball into the back of the net for the tying goal.
The first part of the overtime was a very uneventful affair as both teams displayed a lot of caution and little desire to take any unnecessary chances. During the second half of overtime, however, EDC Burnaby exerted a lot of pressure in an effort to score what might have been the winning goal. However, some incredible goalkeeping on the part of Scott Brown kept the Chileans off the scoresheet. In particular, two shots by Eric Ray and one by Rizal Ganief were brilliantly saved by Brown.
Needless to say, the result had to be settled by the dreaded penalty kicks! For EDC Burnaby, Habib Mohammed, Ylya Malek, Ducivan DeSouza, Rizal Ganief, Chris Kyd, and Brendan Djambazov scored on their penalty kicks, while goalkeeper Hugo Vasquez was able to make two excellent saves to clinch his team’s victory. For the winning team, forward Rizal Ganief deserves special mention for having scored two excellent goals, while goalkeeper Hugo Vasquez made two fantastic saves in the penalty-kick shoot-out.
Despite the loss, Cowichan’s goalkeeper Scott Brown, as well as defender Keevan Webb and left winger Craig Gorman played extremely well. EDB Burnaby will now play Inter FC in the Provincial ‘A’ Cup final.
TEAMS OF THE WEEK: INTER FC and EDC BURNABY for their excellent performances against North Delta Lions and Cowichan FC respectively. The all-important victories qualify the two VMSL teams to the Provincial ‘A’ Cup final! Good luck to both our teams!!
PLAYERS OF THE WEEK: Goalkeepers HUGO VASQUEZ (EDC Burnaby) and ANDREW FINK (Inter FC) for their remarkable performances—especially in the penalty-kicks shoot-outs—in their teams semi-final victories over Cowichan FC and North Delta FC respectively.