July 2nd, 2019 – The night was beautiful, the game was tense and entertaining, unfortunately for the North Mississauga Panthers’ men’s team, they lost 1-0. In a potential playoff preview to first-place Vaughan Azzurri F.C. at Paramount Fine Foods Centre last Friday evening the margins were razor thin.

Watch the full match here

The game was a defensive battle, with both teams only getting five shots on net total. Tied well into the second half, a bad clearance off of a corner kick saw Alistair Johnston’s first goal of the campaign strike the back of the net in the 70th minute. 

Despite a stoppage time flurry in the second half by the Panthers, the result was not in their favour. Nevertheless, Coach Balta said that this result against a team that is first place was a good result. 

“It was more difficult to create chances against these guys,” he said. “There’s a reason why they’re first place in the league. Keeping them to only one goal was good, and it was an unfortunate bounce.” 

Defence has continued to be a strong point for the Panthers, as the team limited shots against the Oakville Blue Devils and Vaughan in back-to-back home games, as Mississauga lost 2-1 with a 90th minute tiebreaker against the Blue Devils last week. Having back to back matches against the two teams tied for top spot has been a tough results-wise, but should prove invaluable in the playoff chase. 

This was only the second time this year that Vaughan has been held to one goal, and Vaughan head coach Patrice Gheisar said that’s a credit to how well the team played. 

“They had grit, they had organization and they had determination,” said Gheisar. “All of the things necessary to make that game competitive.” 

Vaughan Azzuri F.C. (8W-1L, 24pts) currently sits atop the League1 Ontario table, while the Panthers (3W-3L-2D, 11pts) are currently tied for eighth with seven games left to play. All three losses have been to the top 3 teams (Vaughan, Oakville, and Alliance). The top eight teams make the playoffs, where the first round games are played between seeds 1 vs. 8, 2 vs. 7, 3 vs. 6, and 4 vs. 5. 

This means this could be a potential playoff preview, and while Coach Balta said the team must get better at keeping the ball in their possession and create chances to beat a team like Vaughan, Gheisar said the Panthers would be a formidable first round matchup. 

“We played quite well tonight,” he said. “Credit has to go to North Mississauga [for keeping it to one goal], they played fantastic … we’ll have to do better at finishing our chances.” 

The Panthers next play on the road in Brampton on Wednesday, July 3rd against ProStars F.C at Victoria Park Brampton. The kick-off is slated for 7pm, this is the game in hand that the Panthers have to try and move up in the standings. With a victory the Panthers would be in 7th place. 

Coach Balta also said the team is expected to get scoring midfielder Lee Victor Massunda back for their next game, who has been out with an injury the last two games. He is also hopeful that Rahim Thorpe will be back for the next game. 

ProStars FC (3-3-2, 9th place) lost their last outing to Aurora FC, 7-1. There are a lot of ties between the clubs as former players have gone across the city divide to ProStars. They have seen a dip in form going 1-1-3 in their past 5 matches.