The Surrey United Firefighters began defence of their Provincial Cup men's club soccer title with a narrow 1-0 win over Vancouver Island champion Saanich Sunday.
"It was a real battle," said Surrey coach Rob Reed. "We were up against a lot over there with catching a 9 a.m. ferry, playing on a massive field, coming off a six-week break, a large home crowd and playing against the Island champions. So things were kind of stacked against us but we responded really well to all the adversity."
Despite their difficult circumstances, Surrey started quickly and carried the play through the early stages of the contest before Saanich settled down and rallied toward the end of the opening half.
Surrey finally opened the scoring in the 60th minute when a Steve Kindel corner kick dropped into a maze of players in front of the Saanich goal. The ball squirted loose and landed at the feet of Sean Einarsson, who promptly launched a shot into the roof of the net for a 1-0 Surrey lead.
For the next 20 minutes, Saanich pushed back in search of the equalizer with Surrey countering whenever possible. In the final 10 minutes Saanich threw caution to the wind with a full-scale assault on the Surrey goal but could not solve Surrey keeper Andrew Fink, who came through with a series of clutch stops to preserve the win.
Surrey now moves on to the second round against Vancouver's Estrella de Chile Sunday at 2: 30 p.m. at Cloverdale Athletic Park.
"We're familiar with them and it will be another difficult game," Reed said. "They're a good all-around team with some dangerous players going forward that we have to be aware of. It looks like it will be another battle."
Elsewhere, Imperial Cup champion Delta United Hurricanes had their season cut short when they were tripped up 3-2 in overtime by perennial power West Van.
The Hurricanes got off to a fast start when Gagan Josan scored on a low kick off a short breakaway in the 10th minute.
The score stayed that way through halftime but when play resumed, West Van notched the equalizer in the 50th minute.
Josan made up for that goal in short order. His corner kick in the 53rd minute found Amar Mandher at the back of a crowded West Van goal area and he quickly fired it home to restore Delta's one-goal advantage. Josan made an impact on the next big play of the game when he was ejected for a second yellow card after a hard tackle in the 55th minute, leaving Delta a man short with most of the second half still to play.
"Not only were we a man down, we were also without one of our best players," said Delta manager Billy Dhaliwal. "We did a pretty good job of containing them. Gagan went out in the 55th minute and we held on into the 80th minute before they managed to tie it up off a free kick. That hurt because we were using all of our energy to hold off a darn good West Van team and then they tied it up."
The game went into overtime where West Van managed a goal late in the second session to end Delta's season.
Newton's ICST Pegasus also worked overtime without an acceptable payoff as they were eliminated with a 3-2 OT loss to the Chileans.
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