SFU men’s soccer was unable to find a way past UBC goalkeeper Chad Bush on Friday night, as the Thunderbirds produced a solid defensive display to leave Burnaby Mountain with a 2–0 victory.
A goal in each half was ultimately the undoing of the Clan, as SFU was left to rue missed opportunities in a close-fought encounter.
The game got underway in somewhat difficult conditions, as the sudden onset of mist five minutes before kick-off made it difficult for spectators and officials alike.
It was the Clan that looked the more dangerous in the early stages, with Bush having to be on his toes to prevent Mamadi Camara from latching onto a through ball.
With 11 minutes gone, the first real chance fell to SFU. Adam Jones sprung the offside trap to get in behind the UBC defence, but took one touch too many to allow the Thunderbirds’ defence to recover. Jones eventually found Camara, but the winger’s shot was high and wide of the UBC goal.
Five minutes later, the ball was in the UBC net as Dzenan Bezdrob’s effort found the bottom corner. However, the assistant referee’s flag was raised, to the disappointment of Bezdrob and the rest of the Clan.
It was to prove costly, as, somewhat against the early run of play, the visitors took the lead on 18 minutes. A corner floated into the SFU penalty area and was turned past goalkeeper Aiden Bain for the game’s opening goal.
The goal seemed to mark a shift in momentum as the fog began to clear from Terry Fox Field, with the game becoming a battle of the midfields. Both sides saw chances limited — good interplay from Rahid Rahiem and Riley Pang teed up Camara, whose shot was deflected wide. At the other end, a free kick from Kerman Pannu whistled over the bar to mark the final action of the first half.
The Thunderbirds emerged from the dressing room much sharper at the beginning of the second period, with Pannu’s dangerous delivery from a free kick well dealt with by the SFU defence. Momentum was with UBC, though, with Magnus Kristensen finding himself on the receiving end of a yellow card as SFU struggled to repel the visitors’ attack.
SFU continued to create chances, however. Adam Jones’ shot was turned behind by Bush on 52 minutes, before Rahiem’s pace and whipped cross saw Camara force another top-class save from the UBC goalkeeper.
Both sides were looking for the killer pass, with the feeling that the next goal would prove to be crucial. On 75 minutes, Pang found himself in a great position to level the scores, as the SFU forward intercepted a loose pass to bear down on goal. However, his shot blazed over the bar, and, once again, it proved costly.
With seven minutes remaining, the decisive goal came. Once again, it was the Thunderbirds that found the breakthrough. Zach Verhoven’s pace took him past the SFU defender, before whipping a delightful ball across the six-yard area to allow Ryan Arthur to slide in and get the vital touch.
Despite the Clan’s best efforts, that was to be the final score of the night. The visitors held on to record a clean sheet alongside their well-earned victory.
After the match, head coach Clint Schneider praised Bush’s performance.
“He is the best goalkeeper we play at a college level — he can change games — and he did tonight. He made two really good saves in the first half and a couple in the second half, too. That’s just who he is.
“We conceded the second goal when we were pushing; it happens. No excuse for the first goal, though, that was just bad marking. We’ve got some work to do because that’s the second game in a row that the team we played were more physical than us and that was the difference.”
Schneider insisted that his side will learn from the defeat, however, despite the initial disappointment.
“It’s good that we’re creating chances and we could have scored, but our expectations are high for ourselves and you can tell the guys are disappointed. I was disappointed with the first half — I thought we didn’t battle. The second half was much better.
“Some egos are pretty hurt in there, but it’s part of the process. I’m more concerned with where we are at the end of next fall. Spring is about pruning and getting better, eliminating our weaknesses. We learned things about ourselves tonight.”