Griffins settle for 1-1 draw with Alberta after late penalty kick goal

Josh Stayko makes one of his huge saves in the second half (Jefferson Hagen photo).
Josh Stayko makes one of his huge saves in the second half (Jefferson Hagen photo).

Jefferson Hagen
MacEwan Athletics

EDMONTON – The Griffins men's soccer team had just seven more minutes to weather to collect the program's first win over cross-town rival Alberta since joining Canada West in 2014, but it wasn't meant to be.

Awarded a penalty kick in the 84th minute, Golden Bears' Rilind Idrizi made no mistake as the Edmonton rivals settled for a 1-1 draw in Canada West action on Saturday afternoon at Clarke Stadium.

"At the end of the day, in regulation since last year, we've only lost one in our last 10 games," said MacEwan head coach Adam Loga. "So, hopefully we start earning a bit of respect. It was a bit frustrating today. We didn't play our best game, but to still get a point is great."

Both sides had reason for mixed emotions over the result.

MacEwan's Stefan Gajic opened the scoring in the 12th minute on a penalty kick of his own after Egzon Jeteshi was fouled in the box. They nearly managed to hold Alberta off the scoresheet before settling for a tie in the waning moments.

"We knew what they were going to do today, and we didn't execute as best as we wanted to," said Loga. "We didn't necessarily play our best either. But that's a positive – to go in and not play you're 'A' game, but still get a point and put yourself in a very good position to win is great. 

"There are things out of our control that happened, and it swayed the wave of the game. It just felt like we couldn't get on the wave in the second half. We tried to make some adjustments and go forward, but it's a draw."

Alberta had reason for some disappointment, too, after largely carrying the play in the second half with subs Everett Orgnero – a former Griffin – and Javier Alday spurring an attack that relentlessly drove the ball at the MacEwan goal. 

They outshot the Griffins 17-4 (6-2 on target), but Stayko was in fine form. His pure reaction save off Habib Assem's point-blank header in the 48th minute warrants save of the year consideration.

"Unfortunately, we had a man open there and it was a quick header short range, so I was happy to get a hand on it and push it off the bar," said MacEwan's second-year goalkeeper. "We salvaged a point – it was unfortunate not to get the win – but we keep going from here."

The Griffins celebrate Stefan Gajic's penalty kick goal that opened the scoring in the 12th minute (Jefferson Hagen photo).

Stayko was named game MVP for the Griffins and it wasn't just that save – he also made great stops on Assem in the 69th minute and Alday in the 73rd

"He's one of our most consistent guys and he just never gives up," said Loga. "He plays with so much will and heart and desire and it's contagious throughout the locker-room.

"I hope people start showing him a bit more respect in the league and the soccer community. I think he gets overlooked and he shouldn't. He proved it again today."

Defender Michael Ho also helped his goalkeeper out with a defensive save off Idrizi in the 57th minute.

MacEwan's best chance of the second half came when Ousman Maheshe played Rakan Yassin up the left side and he cracked a sharp angle shot that Alberta keeper Chris Ezoua parried over the bar.

With the result, MacEwan (2-1-2) remains a point ahead of Alberta (1-0-4) for second place in the Canada West Prairie Division.

Next up for the Griffins is a home match vs. Victoria on Sept. 17 (2:30 p.m., Clareview Field), while the Golden Bears host UNBC on Sept. 16.

Stayko notes the Griffins will just keep building and getting better.

"I think we're setting new standards here," he said. "We're not always the underdog anymore. We're happy to be competing and we'll just keep building off this."

Egzon Jeteshi carries the ball upfield for the Griffins oh Saturday (Jefferson Hagen photo).