Last weekend’s results blew both ends of the VMSL Premier table wide open, with leaders Rovers Tigers United suffering their third loss of the season, and although second placed Pegasus FC couldn’t take full advantage, they did close the gap at the top a little and have the opportunity to take home the title if they can win out.
At the other end of the standings, CCB LFC United continued their revival as they look to pull off the great escape, and there was a big win for EDC Burnaby in a relegation six pointer.
It’s all to play for in these closing weeks of the season and we’ll kick things off in our weekly round-up with the battle at the top of the table.
Long time league leaders Rovers Tigers United hosted Coquitlam on Friday night to take on Metro Ford Wolves at Newton. It was always a potential banana skin for the Surrey side and so it proved, but I’m not sure many would have expected the 4-1 scoreline that played out, especially with the leaders being at home.
A Juan Sanchez brace, and goal from one time Whitecaps Residency player Erik Morden and Tomi Fagbongbe did the damage for Metro Ford, with UBC Thunderbirds midfielder Rylan Sangha getting the sole consolation goal for Rovers Tigers.
Sitting six points behind Rovers Tigers heading into last week’s round of fixture, but with a game in hand, Pegasus FC could have made it really interesting at the top, but yet again they failed to capitalize on the leaders slip, only managing to come away with a 3-3 draw against Croatia at Burnaby Lake on the same night.
They were made to fight hard for their point too, with Croatia, who went two up in the first half before Pegasus pulled one back right on the stroke of half time. The Horsemen continued their push in the second half, adding two goals to take the lead, but there was still a lot of late drama to come. Pegasus’ UBC Thunderbirds defender Manraj Bains got sent off for aiming a kick at Croatian player with about a quarter of an hour to go, spurring on Croatia to push for at least an equaliser, and they got it with about five minutes left for a share of the spoils.
Golden Boot leader David Malamura (pictured above) grabbed his 16th of the season for Croatia, with Stefan Kamner and UBC Thunderbirds Mihai Hodut grabbing the other for the home side. Hodut’s UBC teammate, Kerman Pannu, got on the scoresheet for Pegasus, along with former Whitecap Yassin Essa and Tetsua Yoshinaga.
The point closes Pegasus’ gap to the league leaders to five now, with a game in hand, while Croatia maintain their comfortable third place in the table.
If the battle at the top of the table sets up a tantalising run-in, the one at the bottom is going to be even fiercer with five teams facing a fight to avoid the drop in a relegation dogfight. With two teams going down, only four points separate Campo Atletico, CCB LFC United, EDC Burnaby, Richmond Hibernian, and Westside, with just four games left for clubs to save their Premier status.
The big relegation battle of the weekend came at Burnaby Lake on Saturday afternoon, with EDC Burnaby pulling off a huge 2-0 win over Campo Atletico thanks to a goal in each half. The win wasn’t enough to see EDC leapfrog Campo in the standings, but they did move above Westside and out of the relegation places.
Westside dropped into the bottom two as their woeful run of form continued. This week’s 3-1 loss at West Van made it eight matches without a win or even a single point.
A brace from Colin Phillips and a goal from Keith Jackson gave the Ambleside lads the win, with Zach Karmel’s seventh of the season getting Westside on the scoresheet.
With form like that it’s hard to see Westside being able to turn it around before the end of the season and relegation feels inevitable. But then we thought that about CCB LFC United just a couple of weeks ago, but back to back wins have seen them move from being cast adrift to within grasp of the life saver. Can Westside do the same?
A double from former Whitecap Caleb Clarke gave CCB a massive 2-1 win at home Rino’s Tigers on Friday night at Newton, lifting them to within three points of a great escape. TSS Rovers’ striker Connor MacMillan got Rino’s solitary strike.
In the final match of the weekend Club Inter and Richmond Hibernian brought out some fireworks at Memorial Park on Saturday afternoon.
Cameron Stokes had Richmond one up against the run of play at half time and despite their dominance, Inter couldn’t find the leveller. Their pressure finally paid off when Milad Rahmati tucked the ball away in the final ten minutes. That then set up a barnstormer of a finish.
Inter looked like they could go on and grab the winner but it was Richmond who took the lead once again with five minutes remaining, with Stokes notching his second of the afternoon and bringing the two benches together in the aftermath. As tensions boiled over Anthony Marrello saw red for a two footed lunge on a Richmond player moments later and the sides came together again.
Undeterred by the man disadvantage, Inter pushed again in stoppage time and Alex Marrello got onto a cross to the back post to head home a second equaliser to claim a point.
Hibs will be kicking themselves for dropping what could be two important points in a month’s time after having led twice, but with the logjam at the bottom right now, every point is crucial and the draw did move level on points with Campo.
A big point for Inter too who occupy 6th place, which depending on what happens in the Imperial Cup, could be the last VMSL spot for this year’s Provincials. As defending champs, they certainly won’t want to miss out on a chance to defend their crown.
All those results leaves the Premier Division standings looking as follows:
The run-in at both the top and the bottom should be fantastic to watch play out over the next month. Pegasus and Rovers Tigers meet in what could be the championship decider at Newton on Friday February 9th. The two teams attracted a big crowd for their last league encounter, so this one should see the place packed.
At the bottom, Campo look to have the toughest run-in, with no matches against their fellow strugglers. Westside finish their season with two massive matches, after some reorganising for Cup play. They’ll host EDC Burnaby on Feb 10th and then travel to face CCB LFC United in Newton on February 23rd. Those two matches could have big implications on the final standings.
Richmond look set to dictate their own fate with matches against CCB and EDC amongst their last three league games. EDC face Westside and Richmond, and CCB have still to play Richmond and Westside, so it’s a brave man that confidently predicts how this is all going to play out.
As those teams battle to stay in the Premier Division, huge congratulations to NVFC Norvan Lions, who secured promotion after romping away with the Division 1 title. The North Vancouver side’s 1-0 win over Metro Athletic FC Burnaby on Friday secured the championship for them after a dominating season.
You find all the latest results, standings, and fixtures across all the VMSL divisions at VMSLsoccer.com.