In just under nine minutes, Jivan Yacou (47') and Krista Cellucci (56') hammered home a goal each to start the second half of the inugural women's L1 Cup in style for North Mississauga Panthers, creating a two-goal margin that Vaughan Azzurri just could not close.
The Azzurri's Nicole Lyon (70') got one back on a penalty, but it wouldn't be enough as the Panthers held on to win the women's 2015 L1 Cup by a 2-1 scoreline.
"Yacou and Cellucci were very active up top and were a handful," said Vaughan head coach, Carmine Isacco. "The turning point was the finish from 25 yards out. She made a half chance into a great finish."
Vaughan's movement and midfield control looked impressive early in the contest, with central players Sarah Wong-Yin-Sang, Alessia Mattucci and Christina Morelli all dominating the ball and feeding their forward players of Aisha Lewis, Kodee Williams, and Nicole Lyon with excellent distribution. But North Mississauga's defensive organization and grit was evident from the opening whistle, and Vaughan found themselves restricted to speculative shots from further and further away from net. Mattucci's 35-yard effort on sixteen minutes was an example, dipping just over the bar. When the Azzurri managed to get shooting positions from the edge of the box, primarily through the ever-present Lyon, they were wayward efforts.
"We struggled to finish," said Isacco. "We created but couldn't finish."
North Mississauga's pace on the wings was also evident early-on, as Oshay Lawes lined up on the right wing and consistently found success running at her marker Peyton Iozzi. Even when double-marked by the Azzurri winger Lewis, Lawes would find a turn of pace to escape and create good balls across the face of net for striker Krista Cellucci.
In a master stroke on twenty-five minutes, the North Mississauga coaching staff changed the team shape from a 4-3-3 to a 4-4-2, moving Lawes into centre-forward with Krista Cellucci and bringing on Sarah Nixon at right wing. Nixon's pace was also obvious, and continued to trouble the Vaughan markers down their left flank, but now with the combination of Lawes and Cellucci making runs in behind and overloading the Vaughan fullbacks, the Azzurri backline struggled to cope.
"Started with one striker, but decided to make a tactical move and use two up top," said North Mississauga assistant coach, Trevor Bertrand. "This caused the Vaughn defence some grief. Played this team twice before and decided to try and keep pressure on their defence."
North Mississauga harnessed their growing momentum at the start of the second half, firing on all cylinders from the half's opening whistle. Yvonne Jacou bent a right-footed curler into the top of the net just after the restart, and only nine minutes later Cellucci received a ball to feet, sent the defender one way, turned the other and slammed a finish into the top of the net. The Azzurri were suitably stunned.
"Both teams created chances," added Bertrand. "One in particular was notable. Oshay Lawes made a run down the right flank, beat everyone with speed, and the incoming player missed by putting the ball over the net. This would have made it three."
Vaughan maintained focus on their gameplan, and Colleen Beesley made a good run into the box behind the Panthers defense, cutting the ball back into a dangerous central position before being barged over by a defender. The penalty shot was called instantly, and with little argument. Nicole Lyon stepped up and dispatched low and to the keeper's right side.
With 2-1 on the board, and twenty minutes left on the clock, the Azzurri pushed hard to create chances, but could not put their final efforts on target. At the final whistle, jubilation ensued for the Panthers.