The Thunderbirds men’s soccer team secured their spot in the Canada West semifinals with a 2-0 win over last years Canada West title holders, the Saskatchewan Huskies.
The ‘Birds had the first real scoring chance of the game when Milad Mehrabi blasted a shot off the crossbar 17 minutes into the first.
UBC continued the attack soon after with some quick ball movement in the Huskies box by Titouan Chopin, leading to a corner kick from Nike Azuma. Jules Chopin got on the end of the cross and managed a shot on net, but the ball stayed out of Saskatchewan’s goal.
Though the T-Birds controlled most of the possession in the first, there was little to show for it as half-time drew closer with nothing on the scoreboard for either team — the Huskies had held a tight back line and kept the T-Birds at bay.
UBC finally managed to open the scoring late in the first when Harry Lakhan picked out Mehrabi from across the field. Heading Lakhan’s cross past Saskatchewan’s keeper Greg Buckley and into the back of the net, Mehrabi put the ‘Birds up on the board with eight minutes to go in the half.
The Thunderbirds finished the half strong with two free kicks to round out the first 45 minutes. Jules Chopin rocketed the first one past Saskatchewan’s defensive wall and off the bar which was followed shortly by a Gagan Dosanjh free kick just outside the top of the box, but was saved by the Huskies goalie.
The teams headed to the dressing rooms at half with the T-Birds leading by a slim margin of 1-0.
The Huskies showed some promise early in the second with Garrett Peters making a run upfield. His efforts were to no avail as his weak shot breezed across the goal and out for a goal kick.
UBC countered quickly with some fancy footwork from Dosanjh, the play was taken down by Peters deep in the Huskies half for yet another UBC free kick. Azuma stepped up to take it, but his cross into the box was saved by the keeper.
This was followed up shortly by a shot from Sean Einarsson taken from inside the box, but it was saved at point-blank range by the Huskies keeper.
Bryan Fong brought the crowd to life minutes later as he continued the onslaught of UBC chances. With a heavy clearance from just inside UBC’s half, the ball floated over Saskatchewan’s keeper and just over top of the Huskies' net, keeping the game at 1-0 with just under a half hour to go.
UBC’s dominance finally paid off late in the second half when the ball ricocheted off the Huskies goalie at the top of Saskatchewan’s box. Mehradi got a hold of the loose ball and steered it into the back of the empty net, securing his second goal of the game with a two goal lead for the home team with eight minutes to go in the match.
With the final whistle, UBC ended the game with a two goal lead and are in the next round of playoffs — the Canada West semifinals.
“I’m feeling great,” Mehrabi said about his two goal game. “It’s the playoffs [that] we need to give it all we got, right? It’s not just me obviously — it’s the other 10 guys on the field who put in the work ... In the season, we went undefeated and we have to maintain that throughout. It’s do or die. We have to maintain that to get to the finals.”
“Great to see Milad get two goals, he really worked hard,” said Thunderbirds Head Coach Mike Mosher. “When you’ve got one of your top attacking players putting in that work rate up front, I think it really sets a tone for the rest of the group too.”
“We’re thrilled ... to be moving on,” Mosher said. “That’s a good fourth place team we just played."
The Thunderbirds next playoff game will be next Saturday, November 7 in the Canada West semifinals. They face either the University of Fraser Valley or the University of Alberta, who play each other October 31.