For the third time in three seasons, the Carleton Ravens have secured a place in the national semifinals after overcoming a two-goal first-half deficit to defeat the UBC Thunderbirds in the final quarterfinal of Day 1 at the U SPORTS Men’s Soccer Championship in Ottawa.
Behind a pro-Ravens crowd, Carleton scored two second-half goals to send the game to extra time where they would gift their home fans a penalty shootout victory, 5-3 (2-2 a.e.t), over the Canada West champion Thunderbirds.
It was not the start the Ravens had envisioned to begin their national championship quest on home soil.
The UBC Thunderbirds took the wind out of the Ravens’ sails in the 14th minute when midfielder Nick Fussell ran onto a perfectly lobbed ball over the Carleton defence before poking it past Carleton’s Kyle Potter to hand the T-Birds a 1-0 lead.
Just a minute later, the Ravens appeared to tie the contest at 1-1 on a Raphael Garcia goal, but controversy struck after the referee determined that UBC keeper Bennett McKay was fouled in the build-up to the score.
With the pro-Carleton crowd rattled by the decision, the Thunderbirds used the blow of the no-goal decision to tack on another soon after.
In the 23rd minute, UBC first-year forward Nicholas Momotani was the beneficiary of a fortunate bounce when his shot at goal from 12 yards out deflected off Carleton’s Ricky Comba and over the outstretched arms of Kyle Potter and into the back of the Ravens’ net for a commanding 2-0 lead.
Trying to get back into the contest using their physicality, the Ravens flew around the pitch drawing the ire of the Thunderbirds who resorted in dishing out some of their own punishment which led to several yellow cards for both teams.
Down 2-0 at the half, Carleton looked like they were going to pull one back early in the second half when forward Gabriel Bitar fired a long-range rocket on goal only for UBC keeper Bennett McKay to parry the ball over the net with a phenomenal flying leap, leaving Bitar in disbelief.
However, Bitar got a second scoring opportunity minutes later and finally got the Ravens on the scoreboard when he tracked down the ball deep in UBC territory, cut to the inside from the left wing and fired a low, hard strike past McKay to make the score 2-1.
Down one but with momentum on their side, the Ravens showed their resilience and continued to attack the Thunderbirds from all angles. Carleton finally pulled even in the 67th minute when Tareq Hamed made his way through several markers on a corner kick before getting a piece of the ball and knocking it past McKay from close range to tie the game at 2-2.
UBC looked the more likely of the two sides to score a late winner in regulation, but the Ravens defended well to close out the full 90 minutes to become the third quarterfinal of the day that would require an additional 30 minutes of play and possible a shootout to determine the outcome.
In the second frame of extra time, with Carleton furiously attacking the visiting T-Birds goal, an innocent-looking cross hit Ravens defender Tareq Hamad before bouncing up and hitting the UBC crossbar, leading to a huge gasp from the crowd. The game would be decided in a shootout.
After three successful penalty rounds from both sides, the penultimate round of penalties would alter each team’s season. Carleton’s Matteo de Brienne confidently guided a powerful shot to give the host Ravens a 4-3 lead. Up stepped UBC’s Mihai Hodut looking for the equalizer, but Ravens keeper Kyle Potter stymied the midfielder’s attempt to put Carleton in the driver’s seat needing a single goal for the win. Under the bright lights of the Ravens’ Perch, defender Tareq Hamad would end the memorable fixture with a winning goal in round five to propel the Ravens to the national semifinal.
Carleton will host the AUS champion Cape Breton Capers in a rematch of the 2019 U SPORTS Men’s Soccer Championship Bronze Medal game on Saturday at 4:30 PM EST in what should be an exciting tilt. While UBC’s quest for the Sam Davidson Trophy came to an end against the Ravens, the T-Birds will continue play in the consolation bracket against the RSEQ finalists Laval at 4:30 PM EST on Friday.
NIKE Players of the game
- CAR: Scott Mazzotta
- UBC: Bennett McKay
CAR: 0-2-0: 2
UBC: 2-0-0: 2
UBC Nick Fussell (1), 14th minute
UBC Nicholas Momotani (1), 23rd minute
CAR Gabriel Bitar (1), 61st minute
CAR Tareq Hamed (1), 65th minute
CAR Gabriel Bitar, goal
UBC Sebastian Dzikowski, goal
CAR Luca Piccioli, goal
UBC Mitch Piraux, goal
CAR Dario Conte, goal
UBC Daniel Kaiser, goal
CAR Matteo de Brienne, goal
UBC Mihai Hodut, save
CAR Tareq Hamad, goal