Originally posted on Voyageurs Soccer Talk message board.

Olympians, Croatia inFINAL today @ 3:00pm EST ! BE THERE

October 1, 2000
Olympians, Croatia reach final

By STEVE KIPPEN -- London Free Press

It wasn't tough to figure out the stakes were high last night at Cove Road field where Toronto Croatia, almost literally, fought the St. Catharines Roma Wolves for a 3-1 win and a berth in today's Canadian Professional Soccer League's Primus Cup championship game.

Croatia will meet last night's other semifinal winner, Toronto Olympians, 1-0 winners over the Glen Shields Sun Devils, today at 3:15 p.m. at Cove Road field.

Croatia, which finished the season in third place, used its size advantage and strong defence to frustrate and upset the favoured but smaller Wolves.

"We played much better than our opponent and deserved to win," Croatia player/coach Milodrag Akmadzig said. "We missed 10 or 15 more chances."

Croatia opened the scoring in the 13th minute off a free kick from the side of the penalty area. Josip Draganic lined a waist-high crossing pass through a gaping St. Catharines wall. Tomislav Granic neatly redirected it past Wolves keeper Dino Perri from two metres out.

Croatia increased its lead to 2-0 during first-half injury time when Leo Marasovic took a long pass and scored on a breakaway, depositing the ball into the lower left corner.

Still, second-place St. Catharines refused to roll over and started the second half with a higher intensity level and immediately stepped up its pressure on Croatia's defence.

But Croatia wouldn't back down, and that's when the battling began in earnest.

The teams traded several hard tackles and often pushing ensued after the whistle. Twice, they nearly came to blows.

Akmadzig said matches between these teams are not usually so physical and thought maybe St. Catharines was trying to change the momentum.

"Once we got up 2-0 they started," he said. "Maybe they were looking for a red card or something."

The pressure paid off for the Wolves in the 61st minute when Gary McGuchan grabbed a loose ball in the penalty area and rifled it past Croatia keeper George Azcurra to cut the deficit to 2-1.

But Croatia stayed calm and continued to create its own offensive chances, forcing Perri to make several outstanding saves for Roma.

In the 81st minute, Croatia's Deni Draganic put the game out of reach at 3-1 when he raced down the left side and found the back of the net from seven metres out.

In the evening's other semifinal, the Olympians and fourth-place Glen Shields Sun Devils rewarded the hundreds of spectators who braved the cool weather with a fast-paced game in which the Olympians held off the Devils 1-0.

Ricky Titus scored the game's only goal in the 31st minute off a free kick.

Olympians head coach David Gee was impressed with the fight the Sun Devils showed after playing a gruelling game Friday night in which they went to penalty kicks to defeat the host club, London City.

"They deserve a lot of credit. It could have gone either way," he said.

Olympians have two wins and a tie in three meetings with Croatia this season.

Posted on Oct 01 2000, 7:00 AM
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