TORONTO, ON – Niko Sigur wasn’t surprised when he scored in the 118th minute to send his York Lions into the OUA Final with an extra-time win over the Ryerson Rams. For the sixth time in seven OUA seasons, the Rams fell out of the playoffs in the semi-finals.
In front of over 1,000 fans, the Lions and Rams played a semifinal that will be remembered for years to come and push both programs forward. In their flashy new digs at York Lions Stadium, the home side got things started quickly with a goal from Omar Marzouk, who finished a header off a corner kick in the 20th minute.
York’s Jodhan sent off, Lions down to 10
As red smoke billowed through the cold November air, no fan in the stands could have predicted what was to come. Ryerson’s Luca Di Marco and York’s Gabriel Jodhan got in a scuffle just eight minutes later, resulting in a red card for Jodhan and a yellow for Di Marco.
Up 1-0, the Lions had to hold onto a lead and win while playing with 10-men. By night’s end, the official had shown nine cards to players while awarding a yellow to Lions Head Coach Carmine Isacco and a red to Assistant Coach Luca Forno. Both coaches refused to comment on the officiating.
Lions midfielder Soji Olatoye doubled the home side’s lead in the moments before half-time, finishing a cross from common-threat and opening goalscorer, Marzouk. “We should have been more emotionally mature, but we needed that emotion being down a man for 70 minutes and extra time,” said Isacco, and it worked for their second and third goals.
Rams drive back late
The Rams harnessed their man advantage in the second half, dropping a defender back and hemming the Lions in their half, before fiding the breakthrough from defender Christian Westlaken, who barrelled in a ball off a corner kick in the 54th minute.
Continuing their pressure, the Rams forced another corner-kick, where Brandon Barrone drew the match level in the 83rd minute, sending the travelling Rams faithful into a frenzy with his first OUA goal.
Tied up at two goals apiece after full-time, the match headed to extra time, similar to the Nipissing Lakers vs Western Mustangs match on the women’s side of the OUA semifinals.
York push through extra time
“We said before overtime that we were going to get one,” said Isacco, who had led his team through over an hour of shorthanded play. “We were confident that we could get numbers forward, Soji [Olatoye] and Meci [Yuma] were committed to it, and Jadon [Vilfort] changed the game for us.”
Both teams had opportunities in the first extra 15 minutes, but neither could find the winning goal until Sigur curled a shot past Ryerson’s Praveen Alihan to win the match in the 118th minute. Running to the crowd, a smirk on his face, Sigur knew he had just scored the biggest goals of his career.
“He’s been a stalwart for us all year; this is what U SPORTS is about, finding that little gem,” said Isacco of the star rookie. “He was one of them that we were lucky to find, and for me, if he develops a little bit, I think he could be a good fit for CPL. “
Rams Head Coach Filip Prostran knows this script all too well but is still confident in the Rams Men’s Soccer program, despite never advancing past the semifinals or qualifying for the U SPORTS tournament under his tenure. “It doesn’t seem like today, but as long as I’m at Ryerson, one day we’re going to win the national title, as long as I’m alive,” he told reporters.
Looking ahead to the Gold Medal Match
With the 3-2 victory, the York Lions advance to the OUA Gold Medal Match on Nov. 13, visiting the Guelph Gryphons. Both OUA finalists qualify for U SPORTS National Championships in a typical year, but with Carleton hosting and being eliminated, only the OUA Champion gets to join.
Isacco knows how to coach in an OUA Final, and coming off of two momentum-building playoff wins over Toronto and Ryerson, the Lions enter the match as favourites. “We have to do what Carleton couldn’t do, find actions to break them down and be careful with their counter-attacks and their restarts.
Canadian soccer fans will be able to watch the OUA Men’s and Women’s Soccer Finals on the CBC Sports website on Saturday Nov. 13.