Ali Lee

VICTORIA – The McGill Redmen held on to a 1-0 first-half lead to defeat the Toronto Varsity Blues in the first consolation semifinal of the 2011 CIS men’s soccer championships on Nov. 11 at the University of Victoria.

McGill will face McMaster in the fifth-place game on Saturday afternoon at 2:30 p.m. The Redmen last appeared in nationals in 2009 and finished in second place.

Redmen fullback Taren Roughead of Coquitlam, B.C., ended the first-half frustration for McGill in the 41st minute, capping a long sequence of pressure by heading in a well-serviced corner kick from Jeremy Hurdle of Victoria, playing in his hometown. The Redmen (1-1) now advance to the fifth-place game tomorrow, Nov. 12, at 2:30 p.m. PST, while the Varsity Blues (0-2) seetheir CIS national tournament come to a close.

The Redmen dominated possession throughout the opening half.

“It’s good for the team and good for confidence because the guys really wanted toplay in the other (championship semifinal) game, but now we are focussed to to try to reach the consolation final,” said Yohann Capolungo of Auxerre, France. “We had many chances to score but the forwards did a really good job of stayingfocussed and we kept going and going and it paid off in the end. We need tokeep the same intensity from the start and keep our organization and discipline. And if we have a chance to put it in I hope we can put it away and play with a good performance.”

Baltimore-native George Banks led the McGill attack early in the game, but his offside goal in the second minute was disallowed. Only five minutes later, Capolungo curled a ball across the goalmouth, testing Blues keeper Russell Moore of Plainfield, N.H. Capolungo and Banks continued to create havoc for the Toronto defence throughout the game.

Blues captain Geoffrey Borgmann, of Mississauga, Ont., was the key player in the midfield for Toronto. He fed speedy Blues and Woodbridge, Ont., natives Ryan Sciacchitano and Mario Kovacevic on a few close attempts but Redmen keeper and first-year Charles Kelly of Gloucester, Ma., had little trouble with the resulting attacks produced.

Throughout the first half, McGill continued to dominate in possession with Alexander King of Detroit and Banks combining well with Capulungo for several promising attempts, few of which landed on target. In the 33rd minute, King had McGill’s best chance but Moore stopped the shot.

Toronto’s best opportunity happened a minute later when Sciacchitano serviced a free kick perfectly in the box but striker Veljko Lukovic of Belgrade, Serbia, was unable to connect.

Tides seemed to turn briefly as the Blues’ centre midfielder Borgmann was hauled down at the edge of the box. The ensuing free kick was blocked and Neil D’Silva of Mississauga, Ont., followed up rolled just wide of the goalmouth.

In the 41st minute, Hurdle ended the frustration in his hometown when he curled a perfect corner kick into the box for Roughead to head confidently into the back of the net.

McGill had a chance to add to the lead with a minute left in the first half, but Banks’ header sailed over Blues keeper Moore, leaving King with a wide open net before his shot trickled wide.

The Redmen would enter the break with a 1-0 lead despite dominating right from the opening whistle and out-shooting the Varsity Blues 12-7.

Looking for the equalizer, Borgmann made his appearance known first setting up Kovacevic in the 49th, his shot going high, and a minute later, challengingMcGill’s keeper Kelly one-on-one but was unable to produce.

In the 61st minute, Hurdle’s free kick just inside Toronto’s half floated justwide. Minutes later, Toronto striker Kovacevic tested the McGill back line with back-to-back attempts but Kelly was more than up to the task. Late substitute and Jamaica-native Jermaine Burrell was an effective target up front for the Blues but McGill veterans Louis Fouquet of Sherbrooke, Que., and Graeme Tingey of Vancouver both calmly managed his presence.

In the other end, King looked like he buried a shot from outside the 18-yard-box but the deafening ring off the left post would prove to be music to Moore’sears as McGill was, again, unable to capitalize. A series of chances in front of the Blues’ net followed with senior defender Tingey, of Vancouver, B.C.,having two attempts on the doorstep of the goal line.

The final minutes of the game were physical, and both teams struggled to find the back of net, committing several fouls in desperation to score.

Roughead’s late first-half goal prevailed and the Redmen will now move on to play in the fifth-place game tomorrow, Nov. 12, against the winner of the McMaster and Montreal game.