Steve Mah rushes to rejoice with fellow goalscorer Owen Parrott as he celebrates what ended up being the winner.
Gastown FC were able to win despite the lack of sunshine last Wednesday night against a physically imposing and motivated Bulgaria Lions outfit. Second half strikes from man of the match Steve Mah and Cpt. Parrott were enough to secure victory for The Iron, who were looking svelte dressed head to toe in black, despite a stunning free-kick late on from the Bulgarians. As the rain stopped, Gastown were able to resist the mounting pressure and earn 3 points that keeps them top of the table with a game in hand.
Old enemies BG Lions have been doing the rounds ever since Gastown FC joined the UltraSoccerLeague summer league back in 2010, so this fixture is always regarded as a ‘must win’ for the both sides. With new additions David Yesaya and Emre Caliskan packing the midfield with Cpt. Parrott, The Iron were able to dominate the opening exchanges and create several chances; Caliskan shot wide from the edge of the area, chipped to high when the opposing goalkeeper was caught off his line and Parrott skewed wide from just outside of the 'D'. However, it was the Lions that nearly broke the deadlock. Poor communication on the right flank meant that neither Steve Mah nor André Alves knew who the covering defender was – as a result, a two man overlap was created. BG Lions passed the ball neatly, setting their silver-haired striker through on goal. The Bulgarian delayed slightly too long, allowing Taylor Willms to get a piece of his shot – a deflection that would wrong foot Whelan in the Gastown net, but not enough to take it past him, the goalkeeper riding his luck as the ball glanced his chest before cannoning off the post. Despite the scare, The Iron continued to press, scoring a wonderful goal after a slick 1-2-3-4 between Silvio Ruprah and Caliskan, the Maldivian/Honduran/Mozambican/Sicilian’s effort questionably ruled out for offside.
After the break, the pattern was resumed. Gastown passed the ball nicely, Yesaya dictating the tempo, with Mah a constant thorn in the side with his tireless running and superb technical ability. Coupled with the relentless pressing of the Gastown midfield and Alves (moving up front at the start of the second half), an error was sure to be made and an opportunity presented. This proved to be true as Hope Fan and Alves did well to pressure the Lions’ centre backs resulting in a loose pass across the back. The errant passed was latched onto by the barnstorming Mah, who drilled a first time shot from the edge of the area into the top right corner; an overly emphatic perhaps, but a pure strike of the highest quality that resulted in a delighted Mah and a relieved GFC. Shortly after, with Ruprah returning to the fray, Gastown would go two up after another neat interchange between Ruprah and Caliskan created the space for Cpt. Parrott to maraud forward from midfield. The Gastown stalwart was picked out by Ruprah, and clipped his finish by the Lions’ goalkeeper into the bottom left corner from 12 yards. Gastown FC home and dry, surely?
It would prove not to be the case, as a monumental shift in the Bulgarians’ intensity put The Iron under pressure. Passes were misplaced, clearances hurried and the downtown east-siders lost their grip on the game. While no clear chances were fashioned, the boys in black were unable to escape their own half, eventually surrendering a free kick on the edge of the area. From a position normally too close to bring the ball down over the wall the young Bulgarian, Pavel, curled a delicious shot over the wall and in off the underside of the bar, past the despairing Whelan. A further eight minutes of sustained pressure ensued, but the Gastown defenders did well to limit the Bulgarians to shots from range, which never troubled the ‘keeper.
The Iron will be delighted with a hard-fought win which keeps them at the top of the table on goal difference, with a game in hand over most of their near-rivals. Gastown FC remain undefeated as the season approaches its halfway stage. The next game will see them without their deep-lying playmaker, David Yesaya; however the team has shown a great deal of flexibility in the past weeks that even Rinus Michel would be proud of.
Ironman of the match: Steve Mah.
Next match: vs. Lagos Shooting Star - June 13th, 20:00 Point Grey. Form Guide: DLLWL