The University of Toronto opened at home this weekend with as the Queen’s Gaels visited downtowns Varsity Stadium to suffer a 1-0 loss to the Varsity Blues. The Sunday afternoon matchup was the two sides second of the 2019 season, and the second time the Blues came out victorious .
In week one of OUA action, the Blues traveled to Kingston to take on the Queen’s Gaels and the Royal Military College Paladins, but in week two the tables were reversed; with the Gaels heading down to Hogtown.
In Sundays affair, U of T started off on the front foot, maintaining possession right from the kickoff. The Varsity Blues got their first chance of the game in the second minute when Kenny Lioutas was barrelled over in the box by Queen’s netminder Alex Dimmock while chasing a through ball from the midfield. The head on head challenge was called a foul against Queens, allowing U of T captain Nikolca Stakic to step up to the penalty spot in the third minute. The captain made no mistake, audaciously chipping the ball down the middle of the goal to give the Blues the early lead- and a goal which ended up being the game winner.
Throughout the first half of the U of T played a very structured 4-4-2, with the two attackers pressing very aggressively against the Queen’s backline. Within the first 15 minutes of the match, the Gaels defense was already showing holes where they could be potentially exploited.
The quick start and high press from the Blues, stymied the Gaels offense
for much of the first half with only Kenji Chang’s outside the box effort testing Toronto goaltender Sebastien Sgarbarrossa.
The second half continued the aggressive offensive nature of Toronto, and they thought they had doubled their lead in the 51st minute. An intercepted goal kick led to a goal off a volley for Toronto, however it was called back immediately for offside; leaving the score 1-0 five minutes into the second half.
Throughout the entirety of the 90 minutes, the Gaels were unable to find many threatening chances. It was evidently apartment that their plan was to attack the flanks and rely on crosses into the box. They showed no attempt or willingness to penetrate through the Blues defense, or adapt. The “play it to the flank” tactic has to be executed to near perfection- with no wide or lead passes going astray. If the ball goes astray, there’s no cross, and no chance- that was the problem for the Kingston visitors Sunday afternoon.
Sgrabarrossa faced his toughest shot of the day in the 73rd minute, when Gael’s midfielder Nicholas Theodroakakis cut inside nearly 20 yards away, shrugged off his defender and sent a cracking shot on frame, forcing the Toronto netminder to extend to his maximum length to make the save.
Following his teams astute defensive performance, Toronto head coach Ilya Orlov spoke to 49 and said “ We had moments where we should have capitalized but we are resilient and we defended well in our block, I give credit to the whole team but our goalkeeper was a standout.”
The manager also went on to speak about his attackers press, saying “ We take initiative and our high press is with purpose and is trained, today it worked to perfection.”
After sealing their third win of the season and winning their home opener, the Varsity Blues are 3-0 and top of the OUA East Division. In their next set of games they host Ontraio Tech and Nippising University at Varsity Stadium, with the former of the two matches kicking off at 8:15 on Friday evening.