The UBC Thunderbirds got goals from Zach Verhoven and Kerman Pannu to edge the University of the Fraser Valley men’s soccer team 2-0 on Friday evening at MRC Sports Complex.
Verhoven scored in the 32nd minute, Pannu tallied in the 60th, and keeper Jason Roberts made three saves for the shutout as the Thunderbirds improved to 6-1-4, good for second place in the Pacific Division. The Cascades (3-5-1) are fourth.
Both teams are back in action on Saturday – UFV hosting the Victoria Vikes (8 p.m., MRC Sports Complex), and UBC visiting the Trinity Western Spartans (7:15 p.m.).
“I don’t think we necessarily deserved to lose 2-0 – you look at the first 30 minutes, I think we were the better team,” Cascades head coach Tom Lowndes reasoned. “We came out and passed it well and caused them some problems. Just kind of the way things have been going this season, they get a goal that hits our player in the back of the shoulder and goes top-corner. We’re not getting those little bounces, those little bits of luck right now.
“But I’m proud of the effort, the work rate. They worked their socks off, and if we can take that work rate and desire into the last seven games, I’m confident we’ll be where we want to be.”
Verhoven’s ice-breaking goal, indeed, did take a deflection on its way into the back of the net. On a broken play with the ball bouncing around the box, Verhoven took a crack at it and his shot went off UFV defender Sahib Phagura and into the top corner to the left of Cascades keeper Alex Skrzeta. Shortly thereafter, UBC captain Bryan Fong nearly doubled the visitors’ lead, but his header went off the post.
The Cascades had several chances early in the second half to equalize. First, Elijah Sampson caught up to a long, high-arcing pass and was bearing down on Roberts, but he lost his footing in the box while jockeying with a UBC defender. Later on, Daniel Davidson flicked a ball through to Michael Mobilio who set up Sampson for what appeared to be a clean look, but UBC’s Fong came from out of nowhere for a last-gasp tackle which may well have saved a goal.
That opened the door for Pannu to extend the T-Birds’ lead. He launched his team-leading fifth goal of the campaign from just outside the box, curling a shot into the top corner just beyond the reach of a diving Skrzeta.
In the 79th minute, UFV generated another batch of quality chances, but Roberts denied Davidson from close range and Connor MacMillan sent his follow-up effort over the crossbar.
UBC’s Titouan Chopin and UFV’s Justin Sekhon – who had a late header tipped over the bar by Roberts – were their teams’ respective players of the game.
“I think our attacking players were much, much better – night and day from the past two or three games,” said Lowndes, whose team has gone four straight games without a goal. “We caused problems, we looked like we were going to score. We’re just fighting it a little bit now to put the ball in the back of the net. That’s the difference between winning, losing or tying games. But we’ll come out tomorrow against UVic and go at it again. We’ll keep fighting, we’ll keep battling. We’ll never give up.”