It was a titanic battle between two League1 Ontario giants in Matchweek Ten as 2016 League1 Men's Champions, Vaughan Azzurri, and the only undefeated men's team in 2017, Sigma FC, clashed at the Ontario Soccer Centre.
In the end, Sigma finished their chances while Vaughan did not and the 2-1 final went the way of Sigma.
Vaughan consistently looked to take advantage of Sigma's high line in the first half, but their through ball attempts were always disrupted by the away side's defenders.
Sigma would get on the board first after Marcel Zajac (20’) was able to react quickly to a moment of confusion in play, steal into the box and finish into an open net.
Marcel Zajac (Photo: Martin Bazyl)
A consistent theme during this match was the stellar play of Sigma keeper Triston Henry.
Sigma head coach Bobby Smyrniotis praised the work of his keeper, saying that even though his team are near the top of standings his keeper is a key reason why his team was able to grab three points.
"Sometimes people think that the keepers aren’t as important because they are not busy in a team that is doing well, but he's very important to our team because he's always there when and where we need him."
Vaughan made two substitutions at the half to try and bring some energy on the field, which would pay off when striker Tomasz Sklublak (68') slotted home a nice effort off a quick turn and release from the top of the box.
The momentum would quickly switch back to Sigma, with Faisal Ghaffur (71') tapping in his own rebound after being stopped the first time by Vaughan keeper Colm Vance.
Faisal Ghaffur (Photo: Martin Bazyl)
The Azzurri dominated possession in the final quarter hour and applied immense pressure to their opponents, but Sigma's Henry again proved to be too strong.
Vaughan's half-time sub Alexander Zis made a nice solo run, which saw him dribble past three defenders and find himself alone in the penalty area with Henry, but the forward ran out of ideas and the effort never threatened the net.
A minute later the Azzurri created space down the right side of the Sigma defence off a counter-attack through Jarek Whiteman, but his effort smacked off the outside of the post.
Henry made what is possibly the save of the season to kill the final Vaughan chances. The Sigma keeper made an incredible point-blank save before getting back into position to make a follow-up one-handed stop.
Henry had twice robbed a Vaughan player inside his penalty area to seal a 2-1 victory for the Mississauga academy.
Triston Henry (Photo: Martin Bazyl)
After the match, Vaughan coach Wayne Mills said that his side's failure to finish was the reason why Sigma were able to win the match.
Mills said that his side made adjustments at half, but their opponent was just too strong.
As for Sigma, Smyrniotis said he told his team throughout the second half to stick to pre-game instructions and pressure Vaughan down the wings.
"We wanted to keep doing what we asked them to do, which was push a little bit more down the flanks," he said.
“We made one switch with a defender and getting Aidan D’Mello, who's a good attacking back, going forward. He's the one who set up that game-winning goal with his run and cut-back from Vaughan's right side."
Smyrniotis further explained that his team started to play with more confidence after scoring their second goal of the day, but said he wanted to see his team press forward more near the end of the match.
"It took Vaughan scoring a goal to tie up the game before we really turned it back on, from an attacking aspect."
"What I didn't like in our team today is that they reverted to sitting back a little bit too deep after that 2-1 and credit to Vaughan - they did a good job at applying pressure."
With the win, Sigma are now two points ahead of second place Oakville Blue Devils for top spot in the West division.
Vaughan now sits six points off first place Woodbridge Strikers and one point shy of second place North Toronto Nitros with 19 points in the men's East division.
Sigma FC will next play Aurora FC on July 8 at Highland Park, Aurora.
Vaughan Azzurri will next play TFC III on July 8 at Kia Training Ground, Toronto.
(Photo: Martin Bazyl)