Jefferson Hagen, MacEwan Athletics
EDMONTON – Misfortune struck the MacEwan Griffins men's soccer team at the wrong time as a tough call wiped out what would have been the winning goal in extra time against the Lethbridge Pronghorns on Sunday.
After Ali Yildiz's corner kick bounced off a couple bodies in front, Abass Ajibade cashed in on the rebound, appearing to give MacEwan a dramatic 3-2 victory. But as the celebration started on the field and in the stands, the tally was waved off on an offside call.
'The Griffins argued, to no avail. The final score was official – a 2-2 tie – that may prove costly in the team's attempts to snare the first Canada West playoff spot in program history.
A win would have pulled them level with Saskatchewan (3-4-1) for the final playoff spot heading into the last weekend of the regular season. But a tie puts the 2-4-2 Griffins two points shy of the Huskies and in need of some help.
"We're still in good shape," said Griffins head coach Adam Loga, whose squad will need to win at least one in a weekend road series at Calgary (4-0-4) and hope Saskatchewan comes up empty in their two matches at Alberta (3-1-4). "We still have a chance going into the last weekend.
"Obviously, it's not what we wanted. We had the lead twice and we just couldn't keep it. A goal called back at the end … it's tough. We're on it next weekend."
When a game is decided on a call, it means business was left in doubt and that's unfortunately what happened to the Griffins on Sunday as they weren't clicking as well as they did in Saturday's 5-1 win over the Pronghorns.
"It's kind of our Sundays again where we don't come out with the same tempo or urgency that we'd like," said Loga, alluding to three previous Sunday lopsided losses this season.
A tie is realistically the deserved result for both teams in the contest as the shots were even (16-16 and 7-7 in shots on target) and the corners were 5-4 in the Griffins' favour.
That said, the Griffins twice held the lead only to lose it within minutes. And they might have had a different result if Alvin Mazaheri had scored in the 19th minute (his shot bounced off goalkeeper Nolan French, off his shin and was heading in before defender Damon Field saved it off the line).
Mazaheri did open the scoring in the 63rd minute when he headed in a cross from Stewart Jamieson for his team-leading fifth goal of the season.
But less than two minutes later, Lethbridge's Will Hughes – while falling and spinning in the box – whipped his leg around and put it in the top corner to tie the contest.
The Pronghorns nearly took the lead in the 70th minute when Danilo Morales had a breakaway but chipped the ball over the bar. Two minutes later, though, Morales took Tom Alberkant down in the box, giving Rakan Yassin a penalty kick, which he made no mistake on.
Again, though, the Griffins couldn't salt the game away as Lethbridge's 76th minute free kick from 30 yards out went off Karim Bey's head and was volleyed in by Landon Veluw.
"We gave ourselves a pretty good opportunity to get three points, but we just couldn't close it out," said Loga.
"I can't say enough about them," said Loga of his graduating guys. "They did well. It's tough to see them go.
"Stef, I'd argue is one of the best players in program history. It's tough to lose him. He just pulls the strings for us. When he's going, we're going, so he's just our most crucial lad."
This isn't the end for the Griffins, but they'll need to win in Calgary next weekend to have a chance at continuing their season. They visit the Dinos on Oct. 23-24 (both 2:15 p.m., Canada West TV presented by Co-op).