(WINDSOR, ON) – It was a meeting between the top team in League 1 Ontario and a club in the midst of a 4-game undefeated streak. Something was going to give.
Friday evening, the Windsor Stars, enjoying a run of four games without a loss, played host to the Oakville Blue Devils at McHugh Stadium. In a scrappy affair that saw countless yellow cards handed out and two ejections, the visitors rode home as 2-nil victors.
The game got under way and the Blue Devils pressed from the start. They quickly earned a corner kick, but were turned away by Windsor keeper Kyle Vizirakis. The play then devolved to chippy as both clubs turned to a physical game.
The first yellow was awarded to Oakville’s Filipe Vilela for a strong tackle on Windsor captain Stephen Ademolu, who seemed to be targeted all evening.
Both sides had some near misses before they settled into a game of kick-away. Throw-ins predominated the play that centred around the midfield area until 27th minute when Vizirakis met the challenge of a strong strike that he punched away.
Oakville continued to press until Tyler Wason’s cross found the head of Tony’s Ellis, and the ball was in the back of the net in the 31st minute.
Shortly before halftime, Mike Pio was sent through on goal with Oakville keeper Daniel Voci reaching the ball a spit second earlier. The effort saw Voci secure the ball and a visit from the trainer after Pio’s knee caught him in the cheek.
The half ended with the Blue Devils leading by a lone goal.
It was apparent that neither team had calmed down after the 15-minute timeout. When play recommenced, it wasn’t long before Ademolu was carded for an incident that could have been called either way.
At 50 minutes, Windsor was called for an infraction inside the 18 and Vilela redeemed himself by burying the kick from the penalty spot.
Four minutes later, Ademolu was taken down by an Oakville player. He was attended to at the sidelines as Windsor played a man down until his return in the 56th minute. It was a prelude to when the Stars would be short, not one but two men.
That didn’t take long to occur. With the Blue Devils pressing Windsor and Vizirakis holding his own, Ademolu received his second yellow and sent off to stay. The prospect of playing a man down for the remaining 20 minutes was daunting.
In the 78th minute, Pio was sent through on a long run down the left side. His arcing strike just skirted past the open goal on the long side. Just three minutes later, Windsor was down a second player when Celso Carapau was shown a red card after entering the game only moments before.
Windsor continued to force the play despite being severely short-handed. After four minutes of added time, the only thing left to do was for Oakville to get on the bus for their ride home.
Despite the loss, Stars head coach Shane Topalovic found the silver lining.
“We played well,” he said. “Over all, I thought we prepared well, I thought we were ready for them. I thought we played good and we just caught a couple of bad breaks.”
Even though two of his players were sent off, Topalovic appreciated the way the rest of the team responded.
“The guys never gave up. They showed a lot of heart. They were very for each other; very selfless the way they were going in. I was very happy with the effort the guys put out tonight,” he said.
Windsor will now prepare for their first League Cup match on June 16 when they will face ProStars FC at Terry Fox Stadium in Brampton. In their league play meeting on June 6, the Stars won away 7-2.
Windsor will return to league play in King City of June 20. The Stars will be taking on ANB Futbol (3-2-1) at the County Day School field. ANB is a single point ahead of the Stars (3-1-3) on the ladder in 3rd position.