(Luke Orlando / McGill Tribune)

McGill squanders lead in 89th minute

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Friday night’s conclusion to the McGill (2-3-2) vs Laval (2-1-3) match at Percival Molson Stadium was an accurate snapshot of the Redmen soccer team’s season. McGill held onto a one-point lead for the better part of an hour before the Rouge et Or scored in the last minute of the game to force a 1-1 draw, the hosts’ second tie of the year.

It has been a rough start to the season for McGill, as it has struggled to close out its opponents in RSEQ conference play. Two of its losses have come by one goal, including a 1-2 result against the Université de Montréal and a 0-1 score against Sherbrooke. However, the team has shown a capacity to be dominant, as evidenced by their efforts on Friday evening.

The Redmen managed to break through the Rouge et Or defence within the first 10 minutes, opening up a number of shots on Laval goaltender J.F. Desrosiers. This included an early lead pass from the McGill backfield to forward Massimo Di Ioia, who missed just wide of the net.

McGill’s persistence paid off in the 29th minute, when Di Ioia fired a rocket into the bottom right corner of the net off of a corner-kick by first-year Engineering major Clovis Fowo. Di Ioia currently stands as the league’s leading scorer with five goals to his name and believes in his team’s ability to compete with the rest of the RSEQ.

“We got really good elements,” he said. There’s a mix of a few of the older guys with the younger guys [.…] I think that everybody gels together pretty good. It’s just a matter of getting a rhythm and staying focused throughout the 90 minutes.

The momentum of the match was clearly on McGill’s side as the host team attacked Laval right out of the locker room at halftime. The Redmen attempted three shots within the first five minutes of the second stanza in an attempt to double the lead.

Appearing lethargic early on next to McGill’s efficient ball movement and overall teamwork, the Rouge et Or nonetheless managed to mount a push in the closing minutes of the game. Laval’s Emir Zrnic managed to slip a pass over the Redmen defence to Nafi Dicko, who fired a shot past McGill goalie Max Leblond to tie the game at 1-1 in the 89th minute.

McGill Head Coach Marc Mounicot was unhappy with his team’s performance in the waning moments of the game.

“Laval is one of the best technical teams in the conference,” Mounicot said after the game. We can play, we’re organized, but we’re young. […] When you’re under pressure and there’s three minutes left to play […] you push the ball to the front. Inexperience killed us today.”

The Redmen bounced back from Friday night’s draw to dominate the Concordia Stingers on Sunday, winning 2-1 at Concordia Stadium. The victory shifts McGill into the fourth and last playoff spot in a very competitive RSEQ conference. Di Ioia is optimistic about McGill’s playoff chances.

“We’re dominating most of the teams. Regardless of the 1-1 draw [against Laval] there are still a lot of positive things that are happening [….] There’s way too much quality on this squad to be where we are at right now,” he noted. “Right now it’s just getting into the playoffs. Once we get into the playoffs it’s a whole new season from there. [….] We’ve competed with [all the RSEQ teams], so we’re definitely not too worried about our opposition. We just need to focus on ourselves.”

The Redmen will return to Molson Stadium on Oct. 6 at 4 p.m. to take on the Sherbrooke Vert et Or. This is a must-win for McGill if they hope to make a push for the post-season.