Brilliant soccer game takes a dramatic turn in overtime

Soccer games can turn on a dime. And there’s never been a more dramatic example than Sunday’s Jackson Cup soccer championship game at Victoria’s Royal Athletic Park between Cowichan LMG Pringle and the Saanich Fusion.

The teams were into the 109th minute of scoreless play when Cowichan’s Steve Scott rifled a shot that Fusion goalie Josh Menzies just got his fingertip on and the ball clanged off the crossbar. Within seconds, the Fusion went the other way and Patrick Nelson made a nifty move around goalkeeper Bob Stankov and slotted home what turned out to be the game’s only goal in a 1-0 Fusion victory.

It was a tough result to swallow for Cowichan, but it didn’t matter who won, it was going to be a heartbreaker for one side or the other — whether it was eventually decided in overtime or on penalty kicks.

This was a great game and people will be talking about it for years to come.

“I don’t think you could get a better Jackson Cup final than that,’’ said Cowichan coach Glen Martin.

The president of the Vancouver Island Soccer League agreed. “That might have been one of the best Jackson Cups I’ve seen,’’ said Vince Greco.

“Both goalies played very well. It was a fun game to watch.’’

It wasn’t your typical 1-0 game, as both teams directed plenty of shots on goalies Menzies and Stankov. It was starting to seem like the game could have gone well into the evening without a goal being scored.

But something eventually had to give and that’s exactly what happened. Scott’s thundering shot looked like it was going to find the top corner but the ball suddenly wound up in the back of the Cowichan net in an amazing transition from one end of the field to the other.

“There’s a fine line between really, really happy and not so happy,’’ reasoned Martin.

Cowichan players were going over the unbelievable occurrence in the lineup while waiting for their silver medals.

“Crossbar and they came right back,’’ said stalwart defender Brad Archibald.

“That’s the way it goes sometimes,’’ acknowledged Brad Thorne.

Stankov obviously saw the whole thing unfold right in front of him and couldn’t believe his own eyes.

“That’s the problem, we had everybody pushed forward trying to get that goal,’’ he said. “They’re a great team and that’s how they get a lot of the goals when they get Patrick Nelson going forward like that. He caught us with a bunch of space. I came out to narrow the angle, thinking he was going to shoot early but he took the wily touch around me.

“I did my job by narrowing the angle. He did his by finishing off so not so much I could do about that one.’’

“I glanced up and saw Bob come all the way out so I figured he was going to stop it if I try and shoot so I figured it was my only play,’’ said Nelson.

Cowichan wasn’t done after the goal and had 11 minutes more of sustained effort to try for the equalizer and almost cashed in several times.

“That’s kind of how it goes, especially when you score late,’’ said Nelson. “You know it’s going to be a bunch of pressure and then you just try and relieve it as much as you can. They had corner kick after corner kick and we defended well all the way through.’’

The game was marked by many great chances at both ends and could just as easily have been 5-5 as 0-0 at the end of regulation, if not for the remarkable goalkeeping. Stankov made two huge saves back-to-back in the first eight minutes to set the tone.

“It’s a dream for any goalkeeper to make a couple of big saves,’’ Stankov said about getting into the groove at that early stage.

After that, the game was filled with memorable moments. Cowichan’s Dan Cato made a great one-on-one move in the first half and rang a shot off the crossbar.

Connor Crichton and Dan Citra both threatened on other occasions in the first half. As the game wore on, Martin started to insert some subs for his tiring troops and every one of them made an impact.

Bram Taylor rifled a couple of shots high, Ben Robson threatened, super sub Kevin Jones put the Saanich defence on its heels, Ryan Andre made his presence felt, Matt Arnett was stopped at the side of the net and Colin Knight even got in late for a crack or two.

“They’re the top two teams in Div. 1. That’s what you’d expect,’’ Cowichan captain Jesse Winter said of the game.

“Everyone on the field you could say played a really good game. They got their chance and finished it.

“You always want to win. You can’t be too down on yourself. That was a great game, two great teams slugging it out.’’

Stankov was perhaps the game’s most remarkable story. He rejoined Cowichan in the Cup run due to an injury to goalkeeper Joel Wilson and played remarkable.

“My younger years in a game like this, I could have been having a bit of a rip at times,’’ Stankov joked. “That’s another nice thing about having the experience. You need to keep the level-headedness and get on with things.

“All in all, it was a pleasure for me to play this game. I played one more big game for the boys before I hang them up.’’

“It was a great effort,’’ summed up Martin. “We put on a good display for the Cowichan fans.’’

Cowichan still has the provincial championships on the agenda.

“This is important, but it’s not everything,’’ said Winter. “There’s more.’’

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