FC London grabbed destiny by the shoestring off a late strike in the box to win the 2019 League1 Ontario Women’s Championship Final on Saturday night.
The excitement still sparks even when the expected occurs at the Ontario Soccer Centre.
Destiny was fulfilled for the now-three-time champions as captain Jade Kovacevic (84′) sped past Rana Hamdy, slotting the left-footed finish into the corner for the 1-0 victory over the Oakville Blue Devils.
Marisa Oliveira fed the the three-time League1 MVP with a sublime through ball, cementing team and individual legacies.
Confidence didn’t die down even when Kovacevic failed to pull the trigger on an open net after she rounded Elisa Lapadula in the 55th minute as London continued to push for the winner until the end.
FC London lifted the trophy in front of an electric crowd after a tense game decided by inches.
Kovacevic drove up the left side of the box for the first meaningful chance of the game, but Leanne Forker made the last-ditch slide tackle go nick it out for a corner kick. Julia Benati dribbled around multiple defenders and fizzed a cross across the ground, but nobody gets on the end of the ball as it sailed out for a throw in.
London maintained their control of the match with the lion’s share of possession in the opening 20 minutes, but Elisa Lapadula sensed danger early in the Blue Devils box, rushing off her line multiple times to extinguish the London firepower.
The tide started to turn in the 22nd minute for Oakville as Laura Twidle launched a shot from distance, ringing off the post and back into play. From that moment, the Blue Devils pressed London to even the balance of play in the game.
London’s Daniella Strano lost the ball in the box with Oakville’s Maria Poveda hot on her tail, but Emily Gillet stepped up to grab the ball to continue the goalkeepers’ busy evenings.
London regained the momentum in the dying minutes of the first half as Oakville were pinned back to their half with everybody but the striker behind the ball. However, the whistle blew as the match remained tight but scoreless.
Oakville returned to the match after the break, flooring the gas pedal in the midfield. Mahira Ali led the charge in the midfield, driving up to find Twidle with passes a touch too heavy.
Kayla McQueen battled back for London with a shot from the right, forcing a diving safe from Lapadula.
Both teams eventually found space down the wings, but the final cutbacks were constantly cleared away. They battled back and forth as they transitioned up and down the pitch.
London pulled ahead at the very end when Forker went down with a bad cramp, leaving Oakville at a disadvantage for at least five minutes. Defence became a priority for the Blue Devils, but it was all for not as London claimed the lead and the Championship in front of the OneSoccer subscribers watching the game.
For many players, the match was the first match feeling like a professional with television cameras all around, and it was only fitting for FC London to lift the trophy once again. The experienced team will look to defend their title in 2020.
Oakville Blue Devils come off a first-place finish in the regular season, and were only one-game shy of winning the title. Steady improvement has been the norm for the club since 2018, and they’ll hope to rebuild on their successes for next season, hopefully culminating in a title for them.