Originally published on CanadaSoccer.com
On day three of the Sport Chek National Club Championships, Manitoba’s FC Winnipeg Lions took on Alberta’s Calgary Callies. On the line was first place in Group C, as well as regional bragging rights.
Considering how well these teams know each other, this match could easily be called a derby. It had all the elements: tough tackles, near misses and plenty of emotions … as well as the requisite cards that follow. And with little separating the two sides penalties would be required to crown FC Winnipeg Lions the victors: 0:0 a.e.t / 3:2 on kicks.
“We knew it was going to be a tough, tough match, says Winnipeg’s Head Coach Tony Nocita. “We’ve played Alberta before … they know us, and we know them, so I’m not surprised by the way it went down."
Callies Head Coach Dave Morrow agrees. “It was two good sides going at it. While I thought we had the better chances, we were evenly matched. Unfortunately [for us], it went to penalty kicks…so it is what it is. And with no disrespect to the other teams, it could easily have been a final.”
It was a game in need of a hero and none stood taller than Manitoba’s goalkeeper Steve Sawatzky. While he wasn’t called-upon often, he made a series of crucial saves. None more important than the one in the 46th minute, when he slide across his net, extending his arm above his head, to prevent what should have been a simple tap in for Alberta.
“Steve is just fantastic,” says Nocita. He’s a real calming influence and today, no doubt, he was the difference.” Sawatzky was equally impressive during the penalty shoot-out, stopping three of the first four shots to secure the victory.
As Group C winners, Winnipeg will now face runners-up in Group B, New Brunswick, while Alberta will play Group B winners British Columbia. Both matches will take place tomorrow.
Live coverage of the men’s semi-final and final of the Challenge Trophy will be streamed on Sunday 12 October and Monday 13 October, at canadasoccer.com/nationals.