“I gave you fair warning, beware”
This week’s match against Ottawa South United Force – they could really lose one or two of the words in their name – went the way of most Sigma games against the ‘non-elite’ sides. OSU, who despite being third from bottom in the East are actually nearer to the top placed team in points than the bottom two so are very much one of the mid-range teams in the league. They came with a plan to keep it tight with 10 men behind the ball when Sigma came forward, and they did for the most part, but meant giving up on any attacking threat.
Mo Babouli started again up top with Alex Halis sitting behind which worked well against Aurora. Daniel Jodah Started on the right side of midfield where Sigma also welcomed back Faisal Ghaffur to partner Giuliano Frano in the centre. Sigma began brightly moving the ball around well. And getting a few opportunities from through balls that were played a bit too strong.
They took the lead in the 11th minute after some good work from Babouli in the box taking the ball wide round a couple defenders and playing low into the middle where after a little scramble Ghaffur was able to lift the ball over the goalkeeper into the net for his second in two appearances. If I had one criticism of Ghaffur earlier in the season was that he was a bit one dimensional and didn’t show anything getting forward. I understand the tactics called for him to drop into the backline due to the fullbacks getting forward but recently since the FC London match he has brought more attacking play into his game and gets forward a lot more which is good to see as he clearly has a great football brain positionally. He also had two more chances in this game, one coming from a Jodah cross to the back post where he couldn’t quite direct the header goalwards and the last a coming from a Babouli free kick played in low to the back post where he couldn’t quite reach the ball and the OSU goalkeeper Thomas Hatch held onto the ball bravely, and that more chances than I can remember him having the rest of the season put together.
OSU had a great chance to equalize immediately after, with their left winger getting on the end of his own deflected pass in the box. Got it back on his right foot from the byline and beating Tristan Henry in goal, only for Walton to clear off the line. Despite Sigma’s dominance in possession and chances it was OSU that equalized in their next attack. A long ball played along the right hand side that was crossed in low to the near post. Henry was unable to keep hold of the ball and Akinwande had the simple task of putting it in an empty net from a few yards out in the 16th minute.
The first two goals were taps in from a few yards out but the third goal of the game certainly wasn’t. Babouli was looking good, driving at defenders, taking them on and creating chances got one of his own in the 25th minute. He received the ball to feet from Thomas about 25 yards and and turned his man with one swift drag back. He drove the ball into the D and curled a fantastic shot into the top right hand corner giving the goal keeper no chance for his second goal in 2 appearances this season.
The game was all Sigma, they almost got a third soon after when Halis played a lovely ball inside 2 defenders to meet Jodah’s diagonal run from the right, who took one touch around the keeper but could only find the side of the net with his left footed shot from a narrow angle.
The 2nd half continued as the 1st left off. Like many teams this season, OSU sat back and defending in numbers against Sigma. The Mississauga team often struggle against this, but they always seem to create a few chances and put a few of them away. Sigma struggle when teams really go for them like Vaughan did a few weeks back – granted Vaughan are a very good side as their 11-1 demolition of ProStars this weekend showed. However, when teams do go at Sigma that’s when they are at their best like against Oakville in the first game of the season, counter attacking with pace and power. They always find a way, beware.
The second half started with an 11 on 11 scuffle, I didn’t see what happened but it ended with Halis and George Anthony El-Asmar of OSU getting booked.
The rest of the half was mostly Sigma. OSU had a couple chances but only ones on target were tame efforts from outside the box and easily saved by Henry, another hit the side netting late on. Any attempts at creating chances were intercepted and snuffed out by the defence. On another day they may have had a few more good opportunities on goal.
Sigma on the other hand had a number of good chances they couldn’t take advantage of. Thomas almost scored when Grant got onto a long ball down the right, he brought it back on his left foot and looped a ball to Thomas at the back post, who couldn’t get the shot of immediately and his shot was finally saved by Hatch to go out for a corner. Babouli almost got his second when Jodah drove a cross across the 6 yard box that Babouli couldn’t make contact with from 3 yards out.
They almost scored an amazing goal when Babouli brought down the ball down in the centre circle and sent a defence splitting pass to Grant on the right, who with one touch flicked the ball inside to substitute Stoddart whose attempt was blocked just as he went for the shot. This was a great move involving two of the players that will probably be hoping to be playing in the CanPL in the next year.
So unsurprisingly it was Sigma who then scored the next goal to make it 3-1 in the 77th minute. Jerome Smith (I’m pretty sure he came on for Kyle Walton but the League 1 website doesn’t state this) played a long ball over the top of the OSU defence for Stoddart who had timed his run to perfection and was free on goal with acres of space who tipped the ball first time past the on rushing Hatch to roll into an empty net.
Captain Frano put the icing on the cake in the 90th minute when his sweetly struck freekick found the top right hand corner to make it 4-1 Sigma. They had pretty much been playing keep ball for most of the second half not allowing OSU any chance to get any momentum going and tiring them out chasing the ball around that potentially led to the 2 late goals. Overall it was a deserved win, and typical performance, they conceded their standard 1 goal they always seem to concede and dominated all the play scoring a few along the way.
Next week should be different when they play North Toronto Nitros, which I’m quite excited about being the other team in L1O that I’ve watched a few times. NTN are also going well in the east, yo yo-ing between 2nd and 3rd with Vaughan, but I also think they possess the qualities that could cause Sigma some problems at the back. Especially with the kid Kibato who may force Johnny Grant and Kyle Walton (depending on which side he plays) to not get forward as much as they usually do or Ghaffur/Frano will have to cover a lot to fill in the gaps. They play a similar style to Sigma, but I still feel that Sigma have too much quality, especially with Babouli up front to overcome, but NTN will have chances and if they can take those, then it will be an open and tough game. More importantly though, call me lazy but it’s being played at Varsity Stadium, the nearest ground to me and doesn’t involve any kind of transport to get to. Who would have thought at the beginning of the season I’d be excited to see a League 1 Ontario fixture at 8pm on a Saturday evening?
PS. don’t forget the all star game this Wednesday up at the Ontario Soccer Centre in Vaughan where League 1’s best, including four from Sigma take on the best of Quebec’s PLSQ. Although if you’re reading this I’m certain you already know about it.
Also Canada take on Jamaica in the quarter finals of the Gold Cup on Thursday, I’m sure TSN will have it on so be sure to tune in to support the lads including ex Sigma FC player and MLS star Cyle Larin