Cougars Men’s Soccer advances to Region Championship on Penalty Kicks

Alex Staab – ICC Harbinger

East Peoria, IL – It was an incredibly cold October night for some postseason soccer at the CougarPlex Wednesday night, as the ICC Cougars took on the Lincoln College Lynx in a Region 24 Semifinal match. This one would be very close and intense throughout.

Things got going quickly as ICC goalkeeper Bojan Bobinac (So. – Croatia) snagged a good save only 55 seconds into the match. The Cougars tried to get a chance of their own not even a minute later, but they were not successful, as the Lynx were able to stop a close chance.

It was the visitors to tally the first goal of the evening, at the 17:23 mark, taking an early 1-0 lead. Bobinac got another quality save for ICC around the 28:00 mark. This was all just part of a great performance by the sophomore. Head Coach Oz Bakirdan believes Bobinac is critical to his team’s performances.

“He stepped up big and played at a high level. Bobby’s our unsung hero.”

The Cougars were able to net a goal before the half, with Ademola Bakre (So. – United Kingdom) scored at the 36:37 mark to tie things at one and set the halftime score.

Although there wasn’t any activity on the scoreboard, both sides were getting good chances at the goal, including a third and fourth big-time save by Bobinac towards the end of regulation. Just prior to Bobinac’s big save was arguably ICC’s biggest non-scoring chance of the night, when a shot went off the left post, holding the 1-1 scoreline.

A nice defensive stand by the Cougars with just over a minute to go in the second half sent the match to the first overtime, still tied, 1-1. When it came to what to tell his team before the overtime period, Bakirdan kept it simple.

“It came down to who wants it more, who’s going to play with more heart.”

The Cougars were the only team with much activity in the first overtime, getting an opportunity off a free kick cleared out around the 91:00 mark, as well as a shot high by Federico Zanna (Fr. – Italy) about two minutes later was all ICC could muster through 100 minutes, and this game would need both 10-minute overtimes to decide a winner.

The second overtime was as intense as any, but certainly favored ICC if anything. Unfortunately, Lincoln College’s Tajay Small (So. – Jamaica) went down in the box with a knee injury, and the preliminary diagnosis was a torn ACL. At this point, and through the rest of the second overtime, it was a battle of the goalkeepers. A big save by the Lynx keeper Miguel Da Silveria Barbosa (So. – Brazil) with about five minutes left in the period. Roughly two minutes later, Barbosa came up with another great save, the shot coming this time from David Alvarez Fernandez (Fr. – Spain) for ICC. With 110 minutes having been played, it was still 1-1. This already exciting postseason match was about to get even more exciting. The Cougars and Lynx were going to penalty kicks.

For the most part, each team traded made penalty kicks, with the only ICC misses coming from David Galic (So. – Bosnia & Herzegovina) and Nikola Vujicic (So. – Croatia). The match-winning penalty kick was scored by Gaye Diadie (Fr. – France), advancing the Cougars to the Region 24 Championship match, which is this Saturday, October 28th, at Noon. The Cougars, as the top overall seed in the Region Tournament, will host the Championship match.

Coach Bakirdan thinks it’s going to be a tough battle Saturday, regardless of opponent.

“We have to play 90 minutes. We need to leave it all on the field. It’s a team effort.”

Harbinger Sports Twitter: @ICCSportsLive | Alex Staab Twitter: @StaabAlex

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