Griffins tie rival Golden Bears, remain five points back of final playoff spot

MacEwan's Michael Enes cuts between two Alberta defenders on Saturday (Chris Piggott photo).
MacEwan's Michael Enes cuts between two Alberta defenders on Saturday (Chris Piggott photo).

Jefferson Hagen, MacEwan Athletics

EDMONTON – Dangerous chances were rare and all the other hallmarks of an evenly played defensive battle were on display as cross-town rivals MacEwan and Alberta played to a scoreless draw in Canada West men's soccer action on Saturday afternoon at Clarke Stadium.

It wasn't for lack of trying in an effort-filled tactical match, but neither side could find the right finish in the attacking third.

As a result, the Golden Bears (3-5-2) remain five points ahead of the Griffins (1-6-3), who are directly chasing them for the final playoff spot in the Prairie Division.

"In the playoff picture, it keeps us ahead of them," said Alberta head coach Martin Fenger-Andersen. "Performance-wise, a draw was about as good as we were going to get out of this game.

"We've got to be much better and that's full credit to MacEwan. They were a very well-organized team today and they were desperate to get the three points to get themselves back in the playoff race. So, I give them credit for this game."

MacEwan is still searching for its first win over Alberta in 11 tries since entering Canada West in 2014. They tied the Golden Bears twice in their inaugural season in the conference and hadn't had a result since, so Saturday's draw is bittersweet for MacEwan head coach Adam Loga, whose team could have passed Alberta in the standings with a weekend sweep.

"The boys played well, they kept the ball well," said Loga. "It's a team that's won national championships over there, and they're a cross-town rival, and we've shown we can dance with them. I think we can build off that and have more belief into tomorrow. Hopefully that intangible carries us through."

The teams will meet in the rematch on Sunday (2:15 p.m., Foote Field).

On Saturday, Alberta had a couple of early chances, but MacEwan goalkeeper Seth Johnstone came out to stop David Chung streaking in alone in the 16th minute and then took to the ground to shut down a blast from former Griffin Lahai Mansaray in the 27th.

Stefan Gajic, left, and Zibusiso Moyo keep an eye on former Griffin Lahai Mansaray during Saturday's defensive battle (Chris Piggott photo).

With the wind in the second half, the Griffins had their chances to strike, but it didn't happen. Everett Orgnero couldn't get a boot on a perfect cross into his feet at the top of the box from Kapri Simmons in the 62nd minute. Five minutes later, Rakan Yassin got on a ball that deflected out of the box and sent a low blast that Alberta keeper Liam Collens caught.

The Griffins argued for a penalty kick in the 90th minute when Yassin collided with a defender in the box, but to no avail.

"It was very evenly matched," said Loga. "I thought we had the better of possession, but at the end of the day, we've got to put our chances away.

"We didn't get shots off when we should have in the final zone. Maybe a couple more shots towards goal would have fared better for us in terms of the result."

Fenger-Andersen noted the Golden Bears will also be looking to make offensive adjustments for the rematch.

"We've got to be much more dynamic in the attacking third and be more confident in possession to create chances out there," he said. "Once we got into the attacking third, we didn't make too much of an impact today. We played a little bit too much 1 versus 1 and we weren't winning any of them.

"We've got to regroup now and we know we're in for another good test tomorrow."