VANCOUVER, BC – As the UBC Thunderbirds returned to their home pitch for the first time in over 600 days, the women’s and men’s teams collected all three points in identical 1-0 wins. Behind a bumper crowd that turned out to watch, there was plenty of exciting soccer action happening in Point Grey.
Here’s how the games went for both teams.
Herculean Effort Foiled at the Last by UBC Women
The UBC women’s team took to the pitch first, kicking off at 5:30 PM against the UNBC Timberwolves. Right from the get-go, it was the T-Birds dominating play. Like their first match against TRU, most of the possession and high-quality chances were initiated by the Thunderbirds.
Probably the best chance of the half came in the 22nd minute though, when UNBC sent a free-kick soaring narrowly over the bar.
The Thunderbirds closed the half scoreless, despite outshooting the Timberwolves 14-2. The UNBC side was defending extremely well, and UBC was having a hard time breaking past the final line, evidenced by the 5 offsides they had in the half.
It was a lot more of the same to start the second half, as Brooke Molby was standing on her head to keep the game scoreless. The UNBC keeper was absolutely fantastic as she turned away shot after shot.
However, her efforts were not enough to salvage a draw for the Timberwolves. UBC, perhaps spurred on by the crowd cheering them on, kept pushing, until they finally broke through in the 89th minute.
The long-awaited roar of the spectators greeted Katalin Tolnai’s goal as UBC finally grabbed the lead in the closing moments of the game. The score would finish 1-0 as Emily Moore kept another clean sheet to push the Thunderbirds to 3-0-0 on the season.
The player of the match though would have to be Molby. Despite the loss, she was absolutely brilliant as UBC threw 20 shots her way. She was the key reason why the game was as close-fought as it was.
The two teams meet again for the second half of the double-header, with kickoff at Thunderbird Stadium set at 3:30 PM Saturday.
Injury Worries as Men’s Claim their First Win
The men’s team was up next, returning home after a disappointing back-to-back draw result against the TRU WolfPack. With the sun setting over UBC’s Point Grey campus and the floodlights coming on, it was a night of soccer that the stadium stayed packed for.
As the game got underway, it was apparent that both teams had a point to prove. The flow of the match was chippy at the start, with UNBC coming out and taking the very tough UBC team head-on.
An early injury to Thunderbird Victory Shumbusho put a dampener on the early parts of the match. On a seemingly innocuous play in the 30th, the striker had to call the trainer over to be attended to on the pitch. Shumbusho would exit the game shortly thereafter, with Logan Chung in his place.
However, UBC would push on and turn the flow of the game to theirs. Nick Fussell made his presence felt, running all over the pitch tonight. He was the one that lofted a free-kick into the box for Tristan Nkoghe, who headed home the opening goal of the match in the 38th minute.
The T-Birds took this goal and the lead into the half, with a solid first forty-five to build off. The shots were 5-0 in favour of UBC, with Bennet McKay not really being tested in the frame.
The second half would be a different story as the Timberwolves got the jump on the Thunderbirds. They came out of the half guns blazing, throwing everything at the UBC defense. McKay came up with a huge save in the 51st to keep the T-Bird lead intact.
A huge storyline emerged as later in the half, Tommy Gardner fell victim to a heavy challenge and appeared to be in a considerable amount of discomfort. The first-overall-pick in the 2021 CPL draft had to be helped off of the field to be attended to. This is a heavy blow to the Thunderbirds, especially if he and Shumbusho are out for longer than expected.
The Timberwolves would continue to press, and in the 79th minute, Henman barely missed just past the right post.
Despite being outplayed in the second half, it would be the Thunderbirds that hung on for a 1-0 victory. It’s the first win of the season and the first home win as well, pushing the men in blue and gold to 1-0-2 on the year.
Fussell earned my votes as the player of the match today, being the engine that really drove UBC. He was making runs, spraying out passes and overall just all over the pitch with his presence. They’ll be needing that more, with Gardner presumably out for a bit as a precaution.
The teams return Saturday for the second match of the back-to-back, with kickoff slated for 7:30 once again on CanadaWestTV.