The Thunderbirds men’s soccer team launched their 2016 playoffs in style. The team battled back from behind to edge out the visiting Lethbridge Pronghorns by a score of 2-1 on Friday night, thanks to a late winner from UBC rookie Mackenzie Cole.
“They're a good team. They fight, they battle and make it difficult … they get the first goal and it was going to make it even tougher,” said T-Birds' head coach Mike Mosher reflecting on the difficulty of the match.
“Credit to our guys — they fought away. We said at half-time, ‘Just persevere and we will find a way.’”
Right off the whistle, it was clear that the Thunderbirds were not willing to accept a loss as they began the match by creating a couple of chances.
However, it was the away team who put the first tally on the scoreboard in the 14th minute. Chasing the ball down the right wing, Lethbridge midfielder Chris Rushworth scored when his shot was deflected off of the Thunderbirds' defence and the ball dipped into the net just over the fingertips of UBC goalkeeper Chad Bush.
Despite the Pronghorns' goal, the ’Birds' momentum was far from slowing. With UBC's Titouan Chopin and Zach Verhoven penetrating Lethbridge’s defence from both the left and right wings and midfielder Kerman Pannu taking shots from all angles, the Thunderbirds’ offence looked hungry for goals.
UBC's first-half momentum was consistent, but the team lacked the ability to finish when facing the net. This was a result of the great defensive focus and goalkeeping from the away team. Pannu’s free kick, which shot straight into the arms of the keeper, was the final play of the first half.
Opening the second half with a one-goal deficit, the home side looked eager to hop on the scoresheet.
As a result of consistency in the attacking zone, first-year forward Manpal Brar earned a penalty shot for UBC in the 60th minute. Brar was trying to dribble past two defenders, with one of them tackling him to the ground, forcing the referee to blow the whistle for the foul inside the box.
Titouan Chopin stepped up to take the penalty for the Thunderbirds and calmly placed it into the lower left corner of the net to tie the game.
The match consisted of Verhoven doing a fantastic job in tiring out the Pronghorns' left back and Brar entering the attacking territory with ease.
In the 82nd minute, another superb run on the right wing by Verhoven opened up a pass to an unmarked midfielder Mackenzie Cole, who tapped in his first ever goal for UBC.
“It’s a big goal,” said Cole regarding his game winning goal. “Feels good to score my first goal for UBC … Glad we’re moving on,”
The Thunderbirds finished the game with a 2-1 win and are moving on to the next round of the playoffs, the Canada West Final Four, which takes place on November 5.