Alexander King of McGill Redmen Soccer
Senior forward Alexander King looks to break through the Sherbrooke backline (Noah Sutton / McGill Tribune)

Soccer: Redmen prevail in rain-soaked season opener

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The McGill Redmen (2-0-0) topped the Sherbrooke Vert et Or (0-1-0) 1-0 in a soggy, lightning-delayed season opener at Molson Stadium Friday night. Following a 30 minute delay, McGill started the match strong with a blistering run by senior forward Sebastian Munro, who created space on the right side of the box, catching the Sherbrooke defence off-guard. The early chance was wasted, however, as Munro was unable to find a target in the box. This set the tone for the first half, with McGill tactically and statistically dominating Sherbrooke. The hosts outplayed the visitors in midfield and held possession of the ball for 54% of the match. Five vigourous McGill attacks between the 15th and 30th minutes were countered by a lone, uninspired attempt on goal by Sherbrooke in the 21st minute, which was easily turned away by McGill captain and goalkeeper Max Leblond.

McGill’s defence didn’t yield an inch to Sherbrooke–the majority of the play was situated between the middle and final third of the pitch. Although McGill held a healthy advantage in possession, the Redmen struggled to finish in front of the goal. Cross after cross was fisted away by the Sherbrooke keeper Guillaume Proulx, and many strikes ended up on the wrong side of the post. A 36th minute corner resulted in the ball finding its way into the Sherbrooke net off of McGill midfielder Valentin Radevich, but was waved offside by the linesman. A nervous moment followed when confusion over the would-be goal led to a Sherbrooke counterattack, but Leblond’s heroics prevented the attack from resulting in anything more than a goal kick.

McGill’s well-deserved breakthrough finally came in the 42nd minute after a long spell of uninterrupted possession left the Sherbrooke defence frustrated and in disarray. After a sequence of pinpoint passes opened up a gap in midfield, an ambitious through ball into the penalty area from sophomore midfielder Alexandre De Santis found the feet of senior forward Alexander King, who wasted little time slotting the ball into the bottom right corner of the net. The International Development Studies major from Cambridge, England was met with a roar of appreciation from both the crowd and his teammates. The first half was a commanding statement from the Redmen, whose play on field suggested a far greater dominance than the scoreboard displayed.

The second half was a dismal affair. Torrential rain and two stoppages in play for lighting prevented any kind of real momentum from developing on either side. McGill continued to stonewall Sherbrooke on defence, but struggled to create any promising chances in the final third. Sherbrooke finally showed signs of life on offence and possessed the ball for long periods towards the end of the second half, but their efforts stalled as time dwindled. The match ended anticlimactically with most of the crowd gone and the rain-soaked players happy to head back into the locker rooms and dry off.

Head Coach Marc Mounicot stated that he wished his team had been “a little bit less flat in the second half.” Lapses in concentration are a usual occurrence with teams still struggling to find their grooves, but Mounicot expressed zero tolerance for his team’s early-season jitters.

“The way we organize requires a lot of energy and it’s hard to keep up momentum when you have to play, stop, play, stop, and play again,” Mounicot explained. “We need to play better soccer for 90 minutes [next game].”

King was the hero in Sunday’s game as well, scoring the winning goal as McGill defeated Concordia (0-1-0) 2-1 to remain undefeated thus far for the season. The Redmen will host UQÀM (1-1-0) at Molson Stadium on Thursday Sept. 11 at 8 p.m.