Three closely contested quarter-finals this past week saw three champions advance to the last four of this year’s BC Provincial A Cup, setting up a pair of very tasty semi-finals this coming weekend, one of them a rematch from last season.
All three leagues still have a chance of lifting the famous old trophy at Swangard Stadium later this month, and all four teams will fancy their chances of doing so.
After a dramatic announcement on Friday that BC Soccer had kicked VMSL Imperial Cup champions Rino’s Tigers out of the competition for fielding an ineligible player, FVSL side Langley United received a bye and advanced to the semi-finals for the second straight season.
As for who would join them there, well that was a fierce battle all round, with each quarter-final being decided by a single goal.
Here’s our recaps of the other three quarter-final match ups, with the first two courtesy of Canucks4Ever from the Take The Piss forum, who was at both matches.
But there could be a massive spanner thrown in the works, which we’ll come to at the end.
BCT Rovers Tigers United (VMSL) 2 – 1 Pegasus FC (VMSL)
The heat of the day broke as we moved into evening and a brisk breeze out of the West ensured that it wouldn’t quite be shirt sleeve weather for this one. On the pitch though, the Surrey derby ensured that the temperature remained heated. With the stakes so high, and the weather pleasant enough, it brought a good crowd of a few hundred to encircle the pitch and fill a good portion of the grandstand at Newton Athletic Park.
The “visitors”, Pegasus, playing on their home ground as they had done the week previous in their win over Port Moody, got off to a dream start. Before the match was 10 minutes old, former WFC2 player Sahil Sandhu, the Pegasus talisman, showed his quality once more. He beat his man down the left flank before putting a lovely ball across the six yard box at chest level that just begged to be turned home and it duly was, to open the scoring.
Perhaps the Rovers keeper had a play on the cross, but once he allowed the attacker to make contact, his fate was sealed and it was 1-0 Pegasus.
From that point though, Rovers seemed to tilt things. That being said, knowing their local rivals as well as they do, Pegasus had seen this movie before and knew what to expect.
Tigers were looking to their counter point for Sandhu, Nick Soolsma, the former Toronto FC product, and the Horsemen were doing a good job shepherding him into cul-de-sac after cul-de-sac. In truth, while Soolsma romped all over the pitch getting on the ball, Rovers produced little to trouble the Pegasus goalkeeper. Their one decent chance came on the stroke of half time when they managed to head wide from ten or so yards out.
In the second half, Rovers continued to carry the play in search of an equaliser, however Pegasus did not appear to be close to breaking, if they were even bending at all. Soolsma was finding space to serve in crosses, but time and again he had only Pavi Dhillon to aim for with the Tiger’s number nine a forlorn figure lost among a forest of Pegasus defenders.
The chances were far from piling up the way they had when the VMSL Champions trailed to Victoria West the previous week and, in fact, Pegasus were looking full value for a 1-0 win through until the hour mark. The first distress signs came when the Pegasus goal keeper fluffed his goal kick and put it cleanly on Soolsma’s foot. The Dutchman played in Pavi and it looked certain to be one all, however the Tigers’ striker had a defender doing just enough to put him off as his first time effort sailed just over the bar.
The home side would not have to wait much longer to restore parity though as within five minutes they earned a corner; the first phase was cleared but the second phase produced a shot from just outside the penalty area, dead centre, and saw the ball rifled into the pack of players leftover from the original corner kick. The shot struck the arm of the Pegasus defender and referee Rubin Smilev was well positioned with a clear, unobstructed view and had no hesitation in pointing to the spot. Soolsma stepped up and buried confidently and it was game on again.
Pegasus came out of their shell and nearly stunned the Tigers by immediately retaking the lead. A few minutes after the penalty, the Rovers keeper was called upon to make a sparkling save, low down to his left, at full stretch to tip the shot around the post in what was easily Peg’s best chance since they had opened the scoring back in the early stages of the game.
With just under 15 minutes to play, Rovers found the dagger. After a slow developing play down the right wing, Pavi was eventually slipped in behind the Pegasus back line. He cut in at a relatively tight angle to goal only to see a defender come sliding in. It was very fine margins and the defender mistimed his tackle every so slightly which ended up leaving the ball pretty much where it was, Pavi still on his feet and the defender sliding past the goal line and off the park. With the keeper’s weight all leaning to the left to cover for the original shot that was stopped by the tackle, Pavi had the simple task of poking the ball past him to his right and into the far side netting.
The Rovers bench and supporters went into ecstasy while the Pegasus sideline chose to aim their frustrations at Rubin. Soon after the restart the ball went out for a throw-in between the benches and all hell broke loose with the supporters leaning over the fence shouting all sorts of profanity along with players and coaches from Pegasus. A red card was produced for one of the Pegasus substitutes while a member of their staff was also sent off.
Once play resumed, and with time ticking away, Sandhu did his level best to salvage things for Pegasus, but to little avail, save for a few ambitious, desperate long range efforts. Late into injury time, to add insult to injury and snuff out really whatever minimal hope Pegasus had left, they were reduced to 10 men when it looked like Javid Kahn received a second yellow card, this one for dissent, and was subsequently dismissed.
After such a brilliant start, Pegasus’ night ended rather inauspiciously with them exiting the competition while their neighbours Rovers could begin planning a trip to the Island to play either Nanaimo or Cowichan in the semi-finals.
Coastal FC (FVSL) 0 – 1 Club Inter (VMSL)
The sun that had been shining all week in the build up to this game abandoned us for Saturday and, as the rain poured down, perhaps it was to be an omen for the home side in a battle between current FVSL Champions and the defneding Provincial Cup champs.
The first thing that was noticeable was that club presence from Coastal had expanded from last week to this week as there was plenty of branding all around the pitch and the technical staff on the sidelines also seemed to have grown by a few. Despite the weather, there was a healthy crowd on hand, though not quite the size of the one up the road at Newton the night previous and unlike the crowd for the Surrey Derby, this one was much more partisan.
There was not a ton of action to get the spectators out of their seats early on though and both sides started slow in this one, really feeling their way into the game; perhaps this was a sign of respect from the defending Provincial Champions, Inter, towards their hosts. The game was short on early talking points however, with one key block from an Inter defender after Coastal broke quickly following a failed corner kick for the “Italians” was really the bulk of the attacking through the opening half hour.
Inter were perhaps shading things just slightly, earning some corners and playing more in Coastal’s end. The home side were hardly helping their cause, though, with some sloppy play out of the back as the centrebacks and goalkeeper continued to execute their breakout patterns poorly, often forcing bad passes through the middle of the field that Inter were feasting on, but not doing much with after they would steal the ball back.
As we ticked past the half hour mark there was finally something to talk about offensively. Coastal talisman Jake Starheim went rampaging across the Inter back line before being hauled down and earning a free kick. The resulting effort looked to be going over, but ultimately dipped, leaving Andrew Fink in the Inter goal with no chance, however the crossbar denied Coastal the opener.
The home side then made the same change that they had made with such success the week previous against Croatia, bringing on a new central striker and moving Jake out to the flank. This seemed to once again have the desired effect as Coastal began to see more possession in the attacking third.
The Fraser Valley Champions were now earning set pieces as both their corner and free kick tallies began to increase, and they looked very dangerous from their deliveries. Their tails were beginning to get up and a long range effort from the substitute striker saw Fink scrambling back to tip it over the bar.
Just when you thought Coastal might really be grabbing the initiative in this one, a moment of madness. As we closed in on half time, a cross came in from the right that was easily collected by Fink. The Inter keeper had the ball well secured when winger Isaac Kyei, who had been on the scoresheet the previous week for Coastal, continued his run towards goal and jumped in with one foot raised, studs fully showing. The challenge was a complete horror show that resembled a karate kick.
While it certainly was not violent conduct, as, despite how ridiculously ill thought out the tackle was, it was genuinely an attempt to win the ball, however, it was also the textbook definition of serious foul play. The referee was right on the spot and had no hesitation in producing the red card. The decision looked completely clear cut, with even most of the pro-Coastal crowd resigned to the fact that the only outcome for a challenge like that was for their man to be handed his marching orders. Even Coastal’s appeals on the field were relatively meek with manager Corrado Lenzi arguing that the contact had been minimal, though there was little conviction in his voice as surely he knew that the amount of contact made no difference in determining whether or not the player deserved to be sent off. It was a rash decision by the attacker and one for which he was made to pay dearly.
In the few minutes remaining before half time tempers flared as things threatened to boil over. You had to feel that this would really tilt things in Inter’s favour given that they have a history of feeding off that sort of energy.
However, Coastal regrouped well at the break and set up tactically to make life very difficult for their VMSL guests, even with a man advantage. Coastal were very disciplined in their 4-4-1, parking 10 men behind the ball and conceding possession to Inter in non-threatening areas of the pitch. The plan was working, with Inter really struggling to break down the home side and Coastal even looking dangerous during brief moments of counter attacking. They were only generating half chances, but you wondered if maybe, just maybe, there might be quite the script being written in this one.
It took Inter 20 minutes to finally carve out a clear chance with their extra player when they hit the bar from in tight at a bad angle, just past the hour mark. The “Italians” continued to tilt the possession numbers as you would expect, but Coastal were far from clinging to things as they looked fairly comfortable and confident in themselves, despite their numerical disadvantage.
On 77 minutes though, local hearts were finally broken.
Inter’s pacey winner surged down the right and he had been the main catalyst for the Vancouver side’s offence for most of the afternoon. He cut in and fired a bullet of a cross towards the near post. The Coastal keeper seemed to get his angles all wrong, ostensibly diving past his front post and past the cross. This meant instead of tipping it around the post comfortably and out for a corner, he parried it back into the middle of the net while he went sailing off the pitch and out of the play. Midfielder Marco Visintin looked to get the decisive touch to bundle it in from close range, though substitute and Pokemon Master (seriously, look it up) Sebastian Crema was also on hand to ensure the ball crossed the line.
Despite the odds being really stacked against them now, credit to Coastal as they pushed on undeterred. Again, it was only ever really half chances that they were producing, but they were forcing some seriously last ditch defending out of Inter, regardless of the fact that they were actually the team down a man. Given their hand being forced into attacking, this obviously left Coastal exposed at the back, but Inter just could not kill the game off.
With a minute of the 90 left to play, the VMSL boys worked a short corner into the penalty area almost unimpeded before firing completely wide at 100 miles per hour when the goal was at their mercy. Coastal meanwhile had their sights set testing Fink with yet another long range effort that again had him scrambling to tip over the bar.
Inter would once more squander a chance to make the last minutes of injury time academic when they worked a nice odd man rush for what seemed to be a sure goal before they fired into the keeper’s arms from six yards out. Coastal would have one final chance off of a free kick, but they could only earn a corner, which they wasted.
Full time would come, eliminating the Fraser Valley Champions and seeing Inter advance to a semi-final rematch against another FVSL side in Langley United. To be honest, a draw likely would have been a fair result on the day, with neither side really dominating in this one. It is fine lines this time of year and, while Coastal were likely full value for a goal, there’s no telling if they really had the legs for another thirty minutes down a man.
That being said, who knows how this one would have played out without one bad decision altering the entire trajectory of the match following the sending off. As it was, Inter ruled the day this time, though Coastal can surely hold their heads high.
Cowichan FC (VISL) 2 – 1 Nanaimo United (VISL) [AET]
Saturday evening saw the all-island battle that not only guaranteed a VISL side in the semi-finals, but that they would also be hosting it.
It was a huge opportunity for both sides and while fourpeat VISL champs Cowichan headed into this one as favourites, matches this season and the stakes on the line, almost guaranteed that this would be a close affair, and indeed it was.
Nanaimo had the better of the early going but Cowichan opened the scoring in the 15th minute when Craig Gorman fired home a long range free kick, with the aid of a deflection.
That lead was to last just seven minutes before Nanaimo tied things up through Daragh Fitzgerald, after a mistake by Cowichan keeper Darian Achurch. and that was how things stayed until half time.
With so much at stake, it was a nervy second half, which Cowichan edged but they couldn’t find a way through a resolute Nanaimo defence and extra time beckoned.
Cowichan were awarded a penalty ten minutes into the first period of extra time. Up stepped Cooper Barry to drill the spot kick home and the VISL champs retook the lead.
Could they hold on? Nanaimo pushed for another equaliser and they thought they’d got it in the closing minutes, only to see the linesman’s flag go up for offside. No goal and no more chances for the visitors, as Cowichan advanced 2-1, and their Provincial Cup hopes were still alive as they have a date on Sunday with the VMSL champions. Well, maybe.
Club Inter will host Langley United in the first semi-final at Burnaby Lake on Friday night, kicking off at 9pm. Cowichan FC host BCT Rovers Tigers United on the Sherman Road Turf in Duncan on Sunday afternoon, with a noon kick off.
Or at least that’s how things are looking right now, but Pegasus FC have launched a protest with BC Soccer over a couple of possible ineligible players on the Rovers Tigers United side. No decision has yet been made by the governing body, but as we said in last week’s article on Rino’s, a whole can of worms has now been opened and those wriggly little bastards don’t fancy going back in the tin till they’ve caused as much damage as possible. Stay tuned.
We’ll bring you full previews of those, and all the Provincial Cup semi-finals, later in the week here on AFTN, whoever ends up in them!
UPDATE: BC Soccer threw out Pegasus’ appeal after BCT Rovers Tigers United produced the correct paperwork for both players involved, so there was never an issue. As such, there’s a cracking match on the island now this weekend!