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London Put One Foot Into 2019 Final, Blue Devils And Masters Hit Stalemate

By League1 Ontario staff, 09/16/19, 12:15PM EDT


(Photo: Kevin Raposo Photography)

(Photo: Kevin Raposo Photography)

FC London absolutely decimated Alliance United, while Masters FA and Oakville Blue Devils ground out a tense but scoreless draw, in the first leg matches of the 2019 League1 Ontario Men's Championship Semi-Finals on Saturday evening. 

Find full match recaps, full match video, details on the second leg and a selection of photography below!

(Photo: Kevin Raposo Photography)

FC London defeated Alliance United 5-0 in the first leg of 2019 League1 Ontario Championship Semi-Final, putting one foot firmly into the Final on September 27.

London took control of the game through the first half and were quick to capitalized on their opportunities with Mohammed Reza Nafar (8') opening the scoreline.

Alliance played defensively with spurts of pressing high in an attempt to regain ball possession. London patiently and successfully shifted the ball to retain dominance on the home side and created goal-scoring opportunities.

It was deja vu in the second half when London's Chad Gopaul (48') doubled their lead in the opening minutes of the half and then Gopaul (59') added another to make a brace.

The match continued to progress at a slow tempo as London exploited their lead. Alliance managed to get into London's half but failed to create concrete chances for themselves.

Alliance's best chance came in the closing minute, putting London's Anthony Sokalski to the test for the first time in the match. London's Tomas Alvarez (85') and Ethan Gopaul (89') got on the scoring sheet to increase London’s lead into five important away goals.

FC London will host Alliance United at German Canadian Club, London on Friday September 20 (7:30 p.m.) for the second leg of this Championship Semi-Final tie.

(Analia Sordi)

(Photo: Kevin Raposo Photography)

Masters FA and the Oakville Blue Devils battled in the first leg of the League1 Ontario
Semi-Final, ending in a physical 0-0 draw at L'Amoreaux Centre, Scarborough, on Saturday.

Tension built up throughout the match with foul after foul, eventually causing tempers to flare as eight yellow cards and two reds were doled out to the teams. Both rosters will be shorthanded for the return leg next Sunday.

Masters' Francis Ameyaw earned the first meaningful chance of the game, receiving the ball on the left side of the box with only the goalkeeper in front of him. Ameyaw couldn't find proper footing to unleash a shot, allowing enough time for Lucas Birnstingl, August's Gatorade Canada Player of the Month, to smother the ball and end the opportunity.

Minutes later, Oakville's Khody Ellis chased a long ball into the box, but he pulled up mid-way through the run. He continued to play in the game, but eventually had to be subbed off just before the halftime break.

Masters continued to look for opportunities up the middle. Yasin Shawan tried to cut through the Blue Devils' core with a pass to break through the lines, but Jesse Bibby stuck out a leg to quell the danger, regaining possession for Oakville as he cleared the ball.

Adam Czerkawski cleaned up multiple chances in the Saints half, venturing out from his central defender position to make expertly-timed slide tackles on the wings. The first half ended with no goals and four cautions. Bibby was cautioned on the Oakville side along with Zachary Drake and Rajvir Khalon, while Shaquille Agard received the lone yellow card for Masters after 45 minutes.

Oakville introduced Reshon Phillip and veteran Judah Hernandez to start the second term, and the Blue Devils swung momentum their way with more control of the ball in the opening minutes. The Saints were persistent in winning the ball back, leading to a caution for Hernandez after a hard foul. A scuffle soon followed after players engaged in a shoving match, resulting in yellow cards for Phillip and Masters' Triston Frankson.

Masters used the break from play to regain their composure, setting up a shot for Akeem Preistly that went high and wide of the net. Moments later, Agard dribbled around defenders on the right side of the box, firing a low cross only to be intercepted by Birnstingl.

On a counter attack in the 76th minute, Spencer Barber zoomed past the Saints defence with a quick burst of speed, earning a foul just outside of the box after getting tripped while trying to cut in. Victor Gallo couldn't get a shot on target on the ensuing free kick.

Late in the game, opposing players clashed once again. Oakville's Deryn Armstrong and Masters' Anthony Wright were both issued red cards for violent conduct, while Saints goalkeeper Spiridon Koskinas received a caution. The game mercifully came to an end as cooler heads prevailed to close out the match.

Koskinas stopped the lone shot on target on his way to a clean sheet, while Birnstingl didn't have to make an official save on his way toward his 13th clean sheet of the season. However, he did keep the Saints at bay by catching multiple crosses before they could be converted into shots.

Oakville leave Scarborough without an away goal, and they'll have to hold off Masters FA in their second leg matchup, scheduled for Sunday, September 22 (4 p.m.) at Bronte Athletic Park, Oakville.

(Jonathan Cheng)