September 20 Vancouver- St.George’s opened the varsity soccer season at home with a 2-1 win over WPGA. The match started slowly, with both teams sitting back and waiting for the other side to make the first mistake. WPGA’s Lane Cunningham looked to be a problem early in the match, challenging the Saints backline multiple times.
The first fifteen minutes were full of Saints chances but the team was unable to find success in the final third of the pitch. As the home side pushed up the pitch, the Wolves were able to find their own chances on the counter attack. WPGA finally broke the deadlock in the 20th minute when forward Lane Cunningham found himself on a two man breakaway, but had his attempt stopped by Saint’s keeper Alex Mackay. Cunningham’s fellow forward scored on the rebound when Mackay parried it into the pathway of the other WPGA forward who was able to calmly slot it into the empty net.
After the goal, Saint’s kicked the effort up a notch, most notably from 11th grade winger Ahmed Ahlghamdi who started to cause havoc with his play down the left flank. The Saints created seven chances in the remainder of the half, most coming from Ahlghamdi. WPGA’s backline held strong and was able to keep the 1-0 lead going into the break, while only having 42% possession.
Saint’s made two substitutions for the start of the second half taking off Jason Forbes who was having an off day compared to his hat trick performance at ISA’s, in favour of untested first year forward Daniel Teperson. The second sub was bringing off grade 10A hero Peiyu Song in favour of Dillon Hamilton in hopes of adding a different danger down the right side. The moves proved to be fruitful as the team was able to carry on their possession dominance in the second half. Saint’s was able to get five shots from outside the box to start the half but all were handled easily by Wolves’ goalkeeper Harrison Hunter-Walsh. Pressure built up and Saint’s did not surrender many chances going the other way, causing the WPGA backline to get frustrated and start committing fouls. The referee had a negative effect on the second half, giving the red and black unfair chances, none of which were taken. Saints had five set piece efforts go to waste in the second half before finding the breakthrough in the 57th minute when Ahlghamdi pounced on a defensive error from the WPGA centrebacks to put the ball past the keeper to tie the game at 1 with 13 minutes to go.
WPGA rebounded after the error and peppered the home goal with shots. The best chance came from Cunningham who was unmarked in the box but fired his shot straight into the arms of Alex Mackay. The match looked to be coming to a 1-1 draw, but not before Thomas Kirkwood scored on a cross that was overshot but snuck into the side netting to give Saints the 2-1 lead with seconds left.
In the end, the Saints took all three points from their west side foes, in front of the large opening day crowd of over 200 fans. In a match littered with defensive errors and refereeing controversy, the red and black were able to keep the good times rolling, coming off their ISA victory to open the year. St. George’s will now prepare to face rivals Vancouver College Wednesday September 27th at VC in a match that will highlight one of the largest rivalries in Canadian high school sports.