A late Mathew Santos (80') goal handed Oakville Blue Devils a 1-0 final result over home side Sigma FC in a battle of the two west division powerhouses on Matchweek 15.
"Probably the most exciting game of the season, which we expected," said Oakville head coach, Duncan Wilde.
"These were two really, really good teams that wanted to have a go at each other. It was probably the biggest crowd I've seen. I think Sigma had a big part of their academy here and we certainly had a big part of ours, so I think at the end of the day it was just a fantastic game."
Matt George (Photo: Martin Bazyl)
The match was fiercely contested in front of a packed house of over 600 supporters for both sides at Hershey Centre, Mississauga, and featured two dismissals, numerous attacking opportunities, and periods of great play from both sides.
With only three points between them at the start of the evening, and with Sigma FC the only undefeated side in the league, the stakes were high for this heavyweight clash.
Both Oakville's Matt George and Triston Henry made several goal-denying saves in the first half, and each received some help from the frame of his goal as well. Sigma and Oakville players would smash several great chances off the woodwork before the night was done.
Mathew Santos offered the first howler in the twentieth minute when he nipped in and beat Henry to a back-pass, rounding the keeper and facing an open net, however his right footed effort inexplicably cannoned off the inside of the goalpost and out.
Mathew Santos (Photo: Martin Bazyl)
Sigma's Alex Halis and Mo Babouli would also leave the match cursing the goalframe, with each turning inside the box and blasting efforts squarely off the Oakville crossbar.
A gritty and passionate contest between the two sides devolved into a melee in the seventy-second minute, with violent play from both sides earning Oakville's Al James and Sigma's Kyle Walton a dismissal each.
Mathew Santos finally had an opportunity late in the match to make amends for his earlier miss, as an Oakville counter-attack left him one on one with Sigma centre-back Jelani Smith. The two made contact while trying to manage a long dropping ball and, amidst controversy from the Sigma bench, Santos gained the upper hand, kept his cool, and deposited the winning strike low to Henry's right.
Bobby Smyrniotis (Photo: Martin Bazyl)
"I thought it was a typical match with two teams vying for first position and a very important match," said Sigma head coach, Bobby Smyrniotis.
"We knew Oakville was going to come in and just wait for an opportunistic moment. That happened for them in the first half when they hit the post after one of our guys gave the ball away, but I thought in the first half we were very good. We created six very good chances and their keeper made some very good saves, and the same thing happened in the second half."
"I'm happy with the performance, it is not their fault the ball didn't go in, and in the end we felt it was just cruel to be scored on the way we were," he added.
"We obviously hoped for a better result but ninety minutes is done and regardless of what is said we can't change that result and we need to be ready to go on to next week."
Sigma and Oakville now sit tied on 36 points at the top of the west division, although Oakville hold an advantage with one match in hand.
(Photo: Dave Chant)
"We've said all season that all we can do is take care of our own business," said Wilde.
"We have a weekend off now, which is great, and we come back the following weekend and there are some big games on the schedule for both of us in the coming weeks so we just have to take care."
"We have a game in hand, which might be an advantage for us, and we are losing a few players to school this week, so a little big of reorganization but we are prepared for that. We'll see how it goes."
"This was just a match in the middle of the schedule that had quite a bit of importance but it is about the longevity and how we keep going from here," said Smyrniotis.
"We go one game at a time and the next one is Woodbridge, which is a very good team in the eastern conference. We leave this one behind and go on to the next."
Sigma FC will next play Woodbridge Strikers on August 12 at Hershey Centre, Mississauga.
Oakville Blue Devils will next play Aurora FC on August 12 at St. Maximillion Kolbe H.S., Aurora.