VMSL Soccer: Vancouver's Inter ‘battles and battles’ but falls short

Coach decries referee interference in metro men’s B.C. Cup final



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Soccer can bring happiness and joy in victory. In defeat, it can also generate frustration, anger, and a sense of injustice.

For Vancouver’s Inter FC, it was the latter on Sunday afternoon in Langley.

Seeking their first-ever B.C. Provincial Men’s A Cup title, Inter FC suffered a 3-1 extra-time loss to Vancouver Metro Soccer League (VMSL) Premier Division rivals Estrella de Chile (EDC) of Burnaby.

Inter, who qualified for the Provincial Cup after a fourth-place finish in VMSL Premier this season, made a strong start in the final at Willoughby Community Park in Langley on May 10.

Instead, Mohammed Habib scored for EDC against the run of play at the 24-minute mark. The Burnaby side held Inter at bay until late in the second half when Joseph Marrello converted a penalty kick to send the final into extra time.

The game tied, the decisive, if not controversial, moment of the match happened in the first period of extra time.

EDC was awarded a penalty after the referee adjudged Habib was held back in the Inter box by defender Bryan Fong. Habib converted the spot kick for a 2-1 EDC lead.

To go ahead 3-1, Rizal Ganief then ensured EDC’s first-ever Provincial Cup title and a berth in the Canadian Club National Championships with a third goal just before the final whistle.

EDC celebrated. A frustrated and angry Inter side headed to the dressing room feeling Sunday’s final had been determined by the “man in the middle.”

“I think we had way more of the ball. I thought we played way better soccer than they did,” said Inter head coach Joe Marrello.

“We should have been up three or four to nothing in the first 15 minutes, but they got a nice goal. Their guy took it well, so hats off to him. It was the only chance they had all game. After taking a 1-0 lead, Marrello said EDC defensively “parked the bus.”

“We battled, battled and battled, and we knew it was going to pay off, and we got the tying goal.

“As far as we were concerned, we were going to win it in extra time, but the referee decided he had other ideas.”

There were also three red cards from the referee in extra time. Inter finished Sunday’s final with nine men after Tino Cucca and Colin Streckmann were given their marching orders, while EDC’s Stedman Espinoza was also sent off.     

“Clearly, he was in way over his head,” Marrello said of the referee.

Sunday’s result was particularly disappointing for Inter, as this spring’s Provincial Cup play downs became a wide-open competition after Richmond Hibernians surprised VMSL Premier Division and Imperial Cup double winners West Van FC and eliminated them in the Round of 16.

“When we went into the tournament, we felt we had a chance of winning it,” Marrello said. “We thought we matched up well with everybody and we felt very confident that we had as good a chance as anyone to be the provincial champions.

“I’m disappointed that we’re not and clearly disappointed because of the way the game was played today. The two teams were not allowed to settle it on their play,” he said.

“There was influence by the obvious.”

While Inter was unsuccessful, three other Vancouver teams claimed B.C. titles in Langley over the weekend. On May 9, Vancouver United FC won the Leeta Sokalski Women’s B Cup after defeating Vancouver Island’s Prospect Lake 7-0, while Croatia SC Threat won the Women’s U-21 Cup with a 4-3 victory over FVNW Barcelona.

On May 10, Westside FC won its third Deryl Hughes Masters Cup title in six years with a penalty shoot-out victory over Croatia SC. With the Over-35 championship win, Westside will represent B.C. at the Western Canadian Masters, which will be held in Vancouver this September.

Simon Fudge has covered the beautiful game in Canada and the United Kingdom for print, web and radio. A gift of family inheritance, he supports Bristol City FC. Reach him at bristol_city@hotmail.com.







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