Stingers vs. Redbirds and Martlets: Men’s 1-0 win, women’s 1-1 draw
Both teams parked the bus against their crosstown rivals
Both the Stingers soccer teams couldn’t afford a loss in their clash against McGill University on Sept. 24 at Concordia Stadium. Clinging onto playoff hopes, the men’s soccer team cruised to a 1-0 win while the women fought off a late onslaught to settle for a 1-1 tie.
Neither the Redbirds nor the Stingers managed to put their foot down offensively at the start of the men’s standoff, trading turnovers and focusing on defence. Each side relied on aggressive pressing tactics to keep the opponent at bay, ensuring nobody was able to pick up any offensive momentum.
The Stingers finally began finding their rhythm halfway through the first half, collecting a few goal-scoring opportunities, and toning up their passing game to optimize ball possession.
On the other side, the Redbirds' offence struggled to capitalize on their scoring attempts despite having no trouble circulating the ball. The lack of accuracy, poor decision-making near the net and a stellar performance by Stingers goalkeeper Tony Awad prevented the Redbirds from finding the back of the net.
After a scoreless first-half, Stingers head coach Greg Sutton brought in third and fifth-year forwards Jared Leheta and Tristan Nkoghe to catalyze the offence. The investment cashed in quickly when defender Olivier Roy scored the first and only goal of the game, concluding a slate of offensive opportunities from a refurbished front end.
“Offensively that’s what we were asking those two guys to do,” said Sutton. “They stepped on and did the job.”
Understanding how fragile their lead was, the Stingers pushed to keep the upper hand. The Redbirds tried rallying for a comeback, getting slightly reckless in the process as defenders Bilal Bouchemella and Matisse Chrétien were booked following some unnecessary hits. The Stingers' subsequent defensive response did not come without a few yellow cards, as defenders Luckson Vilus and Amadou Diop were warned after some sloppy tackles while defender Olivier Langué-Dubé was booked for delay of game.
A series of incredible saves by Awad called the game, as he stood staunchly before his net all day, recording nine saves and receiving man of the match honours.
“It’s a game that was a must-win for us, we had to stick through it,” said Stingers captain John Cevik. “There’s no better feeling than winning against your rivals. We were able to show them that we’re the best English team in the province.”
The women’s team kicked off right after, with high stakes for both teams who were eager to solidify a top four spot. The Stingers immediately set the pace with high-volume passing and steady pressure on the Martlets' defence. Although the momentum was clearly on the Stingers’ side, it did not suffice for an early goal.
The Martlets got ahead first when midfielder Chloé Renaud successfully struck from inside the box. The Stingers then regained composure, keeping the passing game alive and tightening the defence to prevent another goal.
The scoreboard was finally evened out after Stingers forward Rachel Vermaire scored, banking in on a pass by midfielder Shyna Fung. The game continued with action from both sides as each team fought to get an edge going into halftime.
The early second half didn’t feature any big-time plays from either team and possession was mainly defined by who was willing to be physical. This led to a yellow card for Martlets midfielder Mara Bouchard after she made an aggressive attempt at the ball.
The Martlets then exploded late game, pouring on an offensive onslaught. The Stingers gave all they had to fight off the surge, rallying the whole team around the box to avoid a disaster.
“We were able to defend in the second half and not concede,” said Sutton. “At that stage, we were happy to take the point.”
The final whistle was a relief to the Stingers after a hard-fought battle, similar to their game two days prior against the Laval Rouge et Or.
“I think we were definitely gassed,” said Stingers captain Sara Carrière. “We have to work on communication and composure, but I have confidence in us and we’ll get there.”
Both teams now prepare for a showdown on the road against the top-ranked Université de Montréal Carabins on Thursday, Sept. 28. The women will kick off the doubleheader at 6 p.m.