By: Tom Jones
McMaster men’s soccer experienced a mixed weekend in their quest for first place in the OUA West Division, demolishing Laurier 7-1 but losing narrowly to York in the weekend’s double-header at the Ron Joyce Stadium.
York are the league’s runaway leaders and underlined their superiority with a 2-1 victory over the Marauders. The Lions are 11 points clear of second-place Mac in the OUA West standings.
McMaster battled well to force their way back in with a goal towards the end of the match, but a first half performance devoid of urgency allowed York to establish a lead they never looked like relinquishing.
Both sides began the game cautiously, with intelligent pressing forcing both sides to launch long balls forward in the opening stages.
There were few chances of note in first twenty minutes, with Mac forward Mark Reilly twice caught offside, before firing wide from distance in his eagerness to open the scoring.
A couple of moments of good skill from left winger Gersi Xhuti kept Mac looking dangerous, but it was York’s Joey Cicchillo who opened the scoring on 21 minutes, latching onto a misplaced back pass before slotting into an unguarded net.
The Marauders were forced to defend deep as York began to impose themselves on the game, dominating possession and tasking the McMaster goalkeeper Angelo Cavalluzzo with a number of saves.
Their second goal came courtesy of a goalmouth scramble at the end of the first half, as York’s Jarek Whiteman bundled a close range effort over the line as Mac failed to clear from a corner.
Mac began the second half with renewed attacking intent. Mark Reilly showed good control on his chest before flashing his 55th minute shot wide, while Tong Li was unlucky to find only the side netting with a free kick in the 62nd minute.
York had slipped comfortably back in to the passing rhythm that saw them control the first half, but McMaster finally applied the finishing touch to one of several opportunities in the 84th minute, with Mark Reilly rising to head home an in-swinging Gersi Xhuti free kick.
The goal breathed fresh life into both the crowd and the McMaster attack, with increasingly vocal home support spurring on the Marauders, but they failed to score a second time when playing against both the clock and a packed York defence.
“We played with no urgency in the first half, and that cost us,” said Marauders’ coach Dino Perri.
“I would like to take the positives from the second 45 minutes. York are one of the best teams in the country, and we outplayed them for long stretches in the second half.”
On his side’s chances of advancing to the CIS national championships, Perri said, “I think we have as good a chance as anyone. We are one of the top teams when we decide to show up and play.”
The weekend’s results leave McMaster sitting second in the OUA West standings, 11 points shy of York, but four clear of Western in third.