VANCOUVER – On a cold, rainy night at Thunderbird Stadium the UBC Thunderbirds (7-1-5) did just enough to secure a 3-2 victory over the UVic Vikes (3-8) and move into first place in the Pacific Division of Canada West men’s soccer.
It was another case of close but no cigar for the Vikes. The one goal difference was the fifth time this year that the Vikes have lost by such a slender margin.
“We’re playing a lot of young, new people this year and we made a lot of little mistakes,” said Vikes head coach Bruce Wilson.
UBC looked like they might run away with the game early on. In only the second minute of play Verhoven’s cross off the right wing slipped through the hands of Vikes’ keeper Noah Pawlowski and fell onto the right foot of Chopin. He calmly slotted it into the open net.
The Thunderbirds swarmed the Vikes’ 18-yard box for the game’s first ten minutes, but Pawlowski was up to the task and made a huge save off a Chopin bullet shot from the left side of the attacking area.
Victoria nearly equalized in the 11th minute on the counterattack. Vikes’ striker Michael Baart corralled a through ball and found himself eye-to-eye with UBC keeper Chad Bush. Bush who has missed the previous nine games with a shoulder injury showed no fear in hitting the ground and blocking Baart’s low shot. The rebound bounced to Keegan Lang, but the Victoria forward’s shot was cleared off the goal line by UBC centre back Manraj Bains.
In the 21st minute Zach Verhoven pushed outside the Victoria defender and drilled a strike past Pawlowski to give UBC the 2-0 advantage.
It was early in the second half when the Vikes cut the ‘Birds lead in half. UVic centre back Evan Libke played a magical 60 yard pass up field to Baart, who then fed Jack Hill a perfect through ball. Hill slotted the ball in the far corner and it was 2-1 in the 54th minute.
But it was only two minutes later when Chopin scored what will surely be a candidate for the UBC goal of the year. The midfielder cut in from the left wing past three Victoria defenders and drove a howitzer into the top corner of the Vikes’ net.
An 88th minute shot by Vikes’ midfielder Xavier Araujo took a drastic bend and curled into the corner of the UBC goal. That made the score 3-2, leading to a frantic final five minutes.
In the end UBC held on for the victory and the three points to capture top spot in the Pacific Division of Canada West men’s soccer.
With the loss the Vikes remain in last place in the Pacific Division. However, there remains room for optimism. With five games left in their schedule they are just four points out of a playoff spot.
“We’ve had four seniors out with injury this year,” added Wilson. “So we’ve played people who have never played at all. It’s good experience for them, so hopefully we get better every game we play.”
UBC and UVic will play a rematch Saturday at Victoria’s Centennial Stadium. Kick-off is at 2:15 PM and the game can be seen live on CanadaWest.TV.