By: Oren Weisfeld, Contributor
Coming off a decisive win against Brock on Sunday, the Western Mustangs hoped to keep their winning streak alive versus the Ontario University Athletics' first-place Windsor Lancers on Wednesday night.
The game got off to a fast-paced start, with both teams moving the ball quickly and generating chances.
“It was fast and we like to play it like that,” said Lancers head coach Steve Hart. “If you try to play that with us then you’re playing into our hands. That’s exactly what we like.”
Mustangs head coach Rock Basacco was also happy with the start.
"I think we were balanced in terms of our speed," he said. "They have fast guys, we have fast guys, so the game was rather quick.”
The referee also made a statement very early on that he was going to be very strict, handing out consecutive yellow cards for questionable tackles and backtalk.
Neither team was able to score in the first half despite chances for both sides that either missed the net or were saved by the keeper.
The second half is when the game got intense for both players and attendants of Mustangs Field alike.
Five minutes into the half, a Mustangs foul just outside of the box led to a yellow card and a Lancers free kick. Lancer midfielder Jack Sargent stepped up and made no mistake, striking the ball just over the defensive wall and into the back of the net behind Mustang keeper Ben Cowman.
Moments after going down 1–0, the Mustangs were handed another setback when freshman defenseman Ryan Quong was sent off with a controversial straight red card that caused the passionate fans at Mustang Field to immediately rise in protest.
When things settled down, the Mustangs were forced to shift their formation and play with only ten men for the remainder of the game. Despite this, they all had one thing on their minds: win.
“Credit to Western,” Hart said. “They played better when they went down to ten.... They were amazing.”
“I don’t know, sometimes when you go down to playing ten men, the ten men who are left of the field sort of pick it up a little bit,” explained Mustang coach Basacco.
And Basacco was right — as soon as Western went down to ten men they started attacking Windsor aggressively, looking for an equalizer.
The second half was filled with chances for both teams. Western’s best chance came in minute 70 when right-winger Amad El-Houni crossed the ball onto the head of striker Mohammed Reza Nafar, sailing just over the bar.
Windsor also had several breakaway on the counter attack, but Gazette Player of the Game and Mustang keeper Ben Cowman kept his team in the game by saving all shots faced in the half.
Unfortunately, due to playing a man down, a very strong Windsor defence and questionable refereeing, the Mustangs were unable to find a goal and lost 1–0.
“Never happy about a loss but … Windsor has a good team. We had some chances, but again, it was a difficult game,” said Basacco.
When asked about the officiating in a game that ended with eight yellow cards and one red, Basacco laughed and shook off the question, saying, “Does it matter?”
Hart was not as quiet about the officiating.
“The referee I thought was a disgrace," he said. "He was awful, for both teams. He had no control over the game.”
The road ahead doesn’t get any easier for Western, who will be without Connor McFall and Ryan Quong against last year’s Canadian Interuniversity Sport champions the York Lions on Sunday, Sept. 27.