The North Mississauga Men’s Panthers’ push to the playoffs just a whole lot easier last Friday, when they convincingly won 5-0 in their return to the Paramount Fine Foods Centre over Windsor TFC. 

The Panthers controlled possession from the very beginning. A goal by Luca Pacheco off a rebound in the 19th minute first gave the North Mississauga men’s Panthers the advantage in the game, one which they capitalized on for much of the half. 

But while the Panthers got seven shots through in the first half, including four on net, the Panthers would eventually go on to dominate the second half. After a big save by TFC’s Serge Saba on Darren Gertiesingh in the 49th minute, Gertiesingh would get his revenge off a pass from Pacheco in the 63rd minute to bring the game to 2-0 for the Panthers. 

Goals by Nicola Russo (71st minute), Adel Rahman (80th minute) and Rahim Thorpe (88th minute) finished the onslaught by the Panthers, leading them to the victory. 

Photo Courtesy League1 Ontario

Coach Balta was extremely impressed by his team’s performance, not just that they won, but how they won. He sees this game as evidence that the team has been getting better all year. 

“Even during in our 9-0 win against [Toronto] Skillz, we didn’t really control possession,” said Coach Balta. “It’s great that we’ve improved that way, and we’ve been creating a lot more chances, and defensively we’ve gotten more clean sheets recently.” 

The win puts the Panthers in sole possession of sixth place in League1 standings. As the top eight teams make the playoffs in League1, this means that they would have to lose against fourth-place Sigma F.C. at home on Friday and that the Woodbridge Strikers, F.C. London and Aurora would all have to win for the Panthers to be eliminated. 

Coach Balta obviously sees this as a reasonably enviable position to be in, as the odds are in their favour. But he is not taking anything for granted. 

“It’s tough to be super confident,” he said. “If we don’t get a result there [a draw at least], in theory those teams could jump ahead … it looks like we’re pretty comfortable to make it. I was saying from the third of fourth week that it will come down to the last game, and I was right.” 

The victory was particularly impressive given that it was without Luke Rankin in the line-up. Luke was out with a knee injury and he will miss the game against Sigma F.C. as well as at least the Panthers’ first playoff game. 

He is considered an important defensive player on a team with one of the best defences in the league. But Jamie Scott, who has taken some of Luke’s assignments, has earned high praise from his coach. 

“I was worried [about Luke not being in the line-up],” said Coach Balta. “But Jamie did amazing … he has been a really strong performer for us.” 

In other line-up news, Lee Victor Massunda was also out again with injury this week, but is expected to come back against Sigma F.C. This was also Pacheco’s last game with the team, as he’s going back to Niagara College. 

The game against Sigma F.C. will take place at 7:45pm on Friday at the Paramount Fine Foods Centre Field #1. This is home field for both teams, so there is a large ground expected for the season finale.