Written by Mark Bahensky
Photo by James Hajjar
MONTREAL, Quebec – The Carleton Ravens had a strong start to the 2019 U SPORTS Men’s Soccer Championship in Montreal on Thursday morning, defeating the St. Francis Xavier X-Men 2-0 in their quarter-final match.
Stefan Karajovanovic continued his positive run of form for the Ravens, scoring the match-winning goal in the 54th minute after netting five goals in three OUA play-off matches. Gabriel Bitar sealed the victory with a goal in the 88th minute.
“They’re always going to be the tip of the sword from an attacking perspective so seeing both Gaby [Bitar] and Stef [Karajovanovic] get on the scoresheet in the first game of the tournament, it’s always a good sign of good things to come,” said Ravens head coach Kwesi Loney. “Really happy for them and happy that the team was able to support them in getting the opportunities.”
The match was played under difficult weather conditions, with snow fall spanning the duration of the 90 minutes. Both sides had difficulty retaining possession and creating chances in the opening moments of the match.
Dario Conte had the Ravens’ most promising chance of the first half in the ninth minute after receiving a pass from Emad Houache off a short corner kick. Conte dribbled to the top of the box before having a strike that whipped just wide of the left post.
Nick Jeffs made a crucial save to keep the game scoreless just before half-time, deflecting a point-blank shot from Dan Hayfield over the bar after Tane Caubo found him alone in front of goal.
“[We] weren’t taking the risks in the offensive third that we felt like we should be taking. [In the] second half we were able to come and regroup a little bit, tell everybody to relax [and that] it’s okay to take the risk in the attacking third. We were able to do that and score the chances,” said Loney.
Karajovanovic gave the Ravens a lead under 10 minutes into the second half. Ricky Comba closed down an X-Men defender in the offensive third, stripping him of the ball before playing a low cross to the far post. The ball found a streaking Karajovanovic who put the ball in the net from a few yards out.
The goal-scorer Karajovanovic turned provider in the 88th minute, receiving a pass from Dante Cobisa on the right side of the attack before drawing in a defender and sliding the ball over to Bitar at the penalty spot. Bitar caught the diving X-Men goalkeeper out of position, notching the goal to seal the result.
“I think the fact that this our third time here gives us a lot of experience, we understand how to manage the conditions […], now it’s about focusing on recovering, getting our minds relaxed and just focusing on what will have to happen tomorrow,” added Loney.
The Ravens are looking to improve on their 2018 USports Championship result which saw them win a bronze medal. They will be back in action on Friday, November 7th at 4pm in a semi-final match against the Université du Québec à Trois-Rivières Patriotes.