A bicycle-kick stunner at the final whistle pushed the game into extra time, but the Montreal Carabins overpowered the Trinity Western Spartans in the U SPORTS Men’s Soccer Championship semifinals on Friday night, earning a 3-1 win with two goals in the extra session.
Down 1-0 in the 93rd minute, after a free kick was partially cleared by the Carabins’ Aboubacar Sissoko, Spartans midfielder Vaggeli Boucas got on his bike to deliver the unbelievable finish. Dropping the ball over the defence and just in behind Montreal keeper Félix Goulet, Boucas had the B.C.-based crowd roaring.
With all the momentum at their backs, Trinity Western was stunned just five minutes into the first extra-time session, as a wonderful ball from Frédéric Lajoie-Gravelle on the fast break picked out Guy-Frank Essomé Penda, and the forward dropped in a header to take the lead back for Montreal.
Montreal added to the lead shortly after, as Lajoie-Gravelle was taken down by Spartans defender Noah Kroeker in the box. Zakaria Messoudi took the ensuing penalty and made no mistake in adding the insurance marker.
“It was a great Canadian game, a great U SPORTS game,” noted Montreal head coach Pat Raimondo. “Trinity (Western) is a very good team, it was a high-level game, and exciting to be a part of it. Both teams did well. My boys responded well in overtime.”
The first quality chance of the opening frame came from the Carabins. In the 23rd minute, Pierre Lamothe and Lajoie-Gravelle combined on a run on goal. After laying it off to Lajoie-Gravelle on the left flank, Lamothe nearly converted on the veteran forward’s rebound, but his attempt sailed over the bar from in close.
A flurry of chances off a Lajoie-Gravelle corner, including a rocket from Lamothe and a 30-foot volley from Sissoko that climbed just over the bar, saw Montreal threaten again around the half-hour mark.
On a Montreal corner, Joel Waterman got his foot up and caught Omar Kreim in the Spartans box around the 39th minute.
Stepping to the spot, Lajoie-Gravelle netted his fourth goal of the tournament with a clean strike past Sebastian Colyn.
Fifteen minutes into the second half, Montreal came close to an insurance marker – breaking down the right flank, Lamothe ran onto a beautiful flick from Lajoie-Gravelle at pace, letting go of a curler that just missed the far post.
The Spartans nearly pulled level on a multitude of chances around the 72-minute mark, first with a dangerous bomb off the left flank from Gordon Grice, the rebound of which landed dangerously in the Carabins’ scoring area. On an ensuing corner, Leighton Johnson’s ball found Boucas, but the midfielder couldn’t quite direct it by Goulet.
After another narrow miss for Lajoie-Gravelle, Cody Fransen nearly capitalized on the counterattack for the Spartans. On the end of a long link up play, Fransen got tangled up with the Carabins backline before he was able to get the shot on target.
The Carabins await either the Carleton Ravens or Cape Breton Capers, who will square off in the day’s final semifinal on Friday night. Earning their second consecutive berth in the championship final, Montreal will take to U SPORTS’ biggest stage at 5:00 p.m. ET/2:00 p.m. ET on Sunday afternoon.
Raimondo, for one, is raring to go.
“Back-to-back finals for us, and we’ve been chasing the Sammy Davidson (Memorial Trophy) for 18 years now,” said the coach. “Cape Breton and Carleton, whoever wins that game, they’re both quality teams and well coached teams. It’s going to be a hell of a final, but we’re at the dance and now it’s time to recover and get ready for Sunday.”
Players of the Game
- Montreal: Omar Kreim
- Trinity Western: Joel Waterman