The Concordia Stingers tied the Laval Rouge et Or 0-0 Sunday at Concordia field.
Thanks to stellar play by the French giant, Antoine Marleau, the Stingers have turned their season around. Marleau, a goaltender from St. Cloud, France, is a monster in the net. A head taller than any other team member at 6 feet 5 inches, he uses his size to his advantage.
After failing to make much of an attack on their first possession, the Stingers lapsed back into their own zone. For the first few minutes the ball remained in the Stingers end, but not deep enough for Laval to get any quality shots off. It took two and a half minutes of play for the first shot by Laval, a weak chip shot that Marleau stopped easily.
The minutes that followed saw the two teams fall into a pattern that would hold for most of the first half. Concordia was playing a very conservative game, keeping three to four defenders back at all times, letting Laval advance and then pouncing when they made mistakes. The Rouge et Or for their part seemed content to fire a lot of shots, almost all of which were well off target. The visitors also benefited from good control, position, and many corners, but were unable to capitalize.
It was not until the last minutes of the half that the men in yellow showed some offensive punch. With about five minutes remaining in the first half, Concordia got a chance at a corner. The ball flew into a group of players at the front of the net and was cleared, bouncing weakly out to the 30 yard line. A Stinger jumped on the loose ball and fired a quick shot, which the goalie saved easily.
Two minutes later they would get their best chance of the match. After an ill-advised centring pass by Laval, the ball was deflected high into the air. Concordia’s Nathan Jarrar had a great opportunity to put it in. He stood at the corner of the net and jumped to take the header as it arrived. Unfortunately he couldn’t snap the ball into the net the way he wanted to. The ball bounced up into the air again, and this time headed for the other end of Laval’s net. The players collided in mid-air and came down together, allowing Laval’s goaltender to swoop in and pick up the ball.
Going into the second half the Stingers seemed to have the momentum. They tightened up the defensive chokehold they established at the start of the game, allowing for more chances on the scoring end of the field. And yet despite this renewed offensive pressure they failed to get any signifigant shots in the first ten minutes. Marleau was busy as the free-shooting Rouge et Or continued to pepper the net with respectable attempts. Then midway through the second half, the Rouge et Or had an excellent chance to score from within five yards. Marleau had to dive to make the save because of the great force of the shot, and was almost knocked back.
Next it was Concordia’s chance to break the tie. With a few clever, short passes they moved the ball into offensive territory. Then a long, hard pass crossed the front of the Laval net in a dangerous fashion. By speeding up dramatically Nathan Jarrar was able to get a foot on the ball. For a second it looked like it might go in. There was a gasp, then a sigh in the crowd as the ball ricocheted off the outside post.
Laval got its best chance to win the game a few minutes later. They bullied their way up the field with some surprisingly strong running and some excellent team co-ordination. They were lucky enough to get another corner, looking to cross the ball high in the air and land it in front of one of their hungry forwards. Instead, it landed squarely in front of a Stinger defenceman, who kicked the ball fiercely. However, instead of sailing out of danger the ball struck Concordia rookie Kouyabe Ingegongba in the back, and flew neatly into the ready legs of the Rouge et Or striker standing right in front of the net. Marleau was forced to make his most spectacular save of the game. He dove sideways to block the quick shot with his big hands.
In extra time Concordia striker Bryan Bourbonnais received an excellent pass to put him in the clear. He ran easily past the defender and beat the goaltender with a sudden change of direction, rippling the mesh at the back of the net. But there was a whistle on the play. The referee had deemed the play offside. Bourbonnais screamed for all to hear, “What? Are you joking?” Reacting to the outburst, the referee handed him a yellow card.
Laval had a penalty shot in good scoring and the shooter went for a straight shot. The shot, like so many others before it, sailed well over the crossbar and out of play.
Coach Pavlicik was happy with his team’s performance. “I’m really happy with the way the guys fought.”
Bourbonnais was still talking about the call after the game. “I was so on-side. As I ran up I was pointing to the defender, so the ref would be sure to notice I was behind him.”
Concordia will play UQAM twice this week, Oct. 7 at Kent Park in Cote des Neiges at 7:00pm and again Oct. 10 at 3:00pm at Concordia field.