It’s been building up nicely over the past few weeks, but the VMSL Premier championship race really sprang into life last weekend, with the top two teams once again suffering defeat and allowing the chasing pack to close the gap and nip right at their heels.
After winning their first nine games of the season, league leaders BCT Rovers Tigers United have been dropping points of late.
A Colin Phillips goal saw them go down to a 1-0 loss at home to West Van on Friday night, and although it was only their second loss of the season, that made it eight points lost from their last four matches.
Not the form of champions, but they kept their three point lead at the top over Surrey rivals Pegasus FC after the Horsemen suffered their second straight loss as they were dismantled by Rino’s Tigers at Trillium on Saturday afternoon.
That game was our Match of the Week and it didn’t disappoint, with a free scoring Rino’s side putting on a highly impressive four goal first half display to leave Pegasus shellshocked come half time. It could have easily been more. The Surrey side fought back in the second half, reducing the deficit to two, but it was too little, too late and Tigers came away with the 4-2 win.
Rino’s have been revitalised the past couple of weeks with the addition of some top college talent from SFU and UBC, with some TSS Rovers connections thrown in for good measure.
The match got off to a fast start with both teams exchanging chances and saves in the opening minute. After that, Rino’s took over.
Whitecaps Residency graduate, and current Clan man, Connor Glennon started the first half rout in the 6th minute, picking himself up after being brought down in the box to slot home the opener from the spot. Ten minutes later and it was 2-0, when UBC’s Kristian Yli-Hietenan had the easy job of tucking the ball away after a Pegasus defender inexplicably jumped over the ball to allow it to run into his path.
Two goals in a four minute spell at the half hour mark then had Rino’s in cruise control. TSS Rovers’ Connor MacMillan made it 3-0 with a nice solo goal, running into the box, before cutting inside and firing home. Yli-Hietenan then rounded off a great first half for the Tigers when he headed in a lovely chip from Glennon to the back post.
The half time team talk by Pegasus was as vociferous as you could imagine and it had an immediate impact with the Surrey side getting a goal back just two minutes after the restart through Race Williams.
Pegasus made most of the running in the second half, but it was Rino’s who still had the best chances, first seeing an effort crash off the bar and then one cleared off the line.
Azad Palani cut the deficit to two with 16 minutes remaining, grabbing his seventh of the season, but there was to be no dramatic comeback for Pegasus and Rino’s came away with a huge three points.
AFTN photographer Duncan Nicol was at Trillium to shoot the game for us, and despite the horrible lighting at that pitch, he managed to get some cracking shots, which you can find on our Flickr page and in the slideshow below.
We also captured five of the six goals, and some other chances, on video. I’d have got all six goals if not for having to clean the rain off my camera lens at the very wrong moment! Anyway, you can make do with these five instead!!
That win saw Rino’s close the gap at the top to nine points with a game in hand. On the form they’ve been showing recently, if the season was just getting underway, you’d have to fancy Rino’s Tigers to be favourites to win the title. They still could, but will need others to continue to drop points and probably have to win out in their last nine matches.
Not impossible, but they’ll be severely tested with two massive matches for them in the space of three days. First up are fourth placed Inter on Wednesday (kick off 8pm at Memorial South), followed by third placed Croatia on Friday. Both should be cracking games and ones which could have a huge say in where the VMSL title ends up.
Croatia SC moved to within a point of Pegasus in third, and four points off the top spot, after hammering the side that shocked the Horsemen last weekend, EDC Burnaby, 5-0. The Malamura brothers continued to cause problems for VMSL defences, with Mark grabbing a brace this past weekend and David adding another. Goals from Emile Saimovici and William Raphael rounded off the scoring for Croatia.
Inter got over their disappointing loss to Rovers Tigers last weekend by going on a goal spree of their own, trouncing CCB LFC United 6-1 at Newton on Friday night. A hat-trick from SFU midfielder Dzenan Bezdrob, and goals from his Clan teammate Brendan Shaw, Alex Marrello, and Bryan Fong gave Inter the victory, with Rizal Ganief grabbing the consolation goal for CCB.
Defending champions Coquitlam Metro Ford Wolves continued their resurgence on Friday night, making it five straight wins and taking their unbeaten run to six matches, with a 2-1 win over Richmond FC Hibernian. Carlo Basso and Nicolas Espinosa got on the scoresheet for Coquitlam, with Matteo Serka grabbing the only goal for Richmond.
The comeback of the weekend though belonged to Campo Atletico. Goals from, Byunghan Im and Luca Locascio had Westside seemingly cruising and up two at half time. A disallowed goal and a penalty off the woodwork to start the second half didn’t seem to matter, as Westside piled on the pressure, but then Campo Atletico found another level.
Goals from Matias Guedes, Paraic Phelan, and a returning Santiago Sanchez in the last 25 minutes saw Campo storm back for what was looking an unlikely 3-2 victory and take three huge points in their battle to avoid relegation back to Division 1.
All those results leave the VMSL Premier table looking as follows.
As we mentioned, Club Inter v Rino’s Tigers is on Wednesday at 8pm at Memorial South. We’ll be getting out to that one and will bring you some photos and highlights, along with a round up and some videos from the other VMSL divisions and a preview of the weekend’s Premier action, on Friday.