By Thomas Becker
For 74 minutes, the UPEI Panthers fought toe-to-toe with the Cape Breton Capers, but the defending champions were too strong down the stretch as they came away with a 3-0 win Sunday afternoon.
When you take on the defending champions the room for error is minimal and a 3rd minute goal forced the home team to play from behind. It was the first goal the Panthers surrendered all season and it came off a free kick left of the box that was headed in by Marcus Campanile.
"It's always great to score a goal early," said Marcus Campanile, who recorded a pair of goals and took home the Subway Player of the Game honours.
Instead of hanging their heads, UPEI competed as well as anyone could against an experienced Capers squad. Their heart and hustle was undeniable, but it didn't translate to scores.
"We were even with them for 95 per cent of the game, but when you're playing the defending champions, that five per cent is a huge difference," said head coach Lewis Page. "So our challenge now is to sustain that for a whole game."
The Panthers had a great chance at an equalizer in the 20th minute when Sam Smiley picked off a casual back pass from Cape Breton defender Euan Bauld, but missed wide right.
"It's tough to give up an early goal, but we had a chance to tie it and we really were the better team in the last 20 minutes of the half," Page said.
The two teams continued to trade jabs in the second half before the Capers broke the game open on a 74th minute goal by reserve Daniel Williams. Campanile closed out the scoring with his second in the 75th minute.
"In the second half we played the clinical game we're used to," Campanile said. "We pushed our guys forward and put pressure on their defence."
The Panthers and Capers will battle it out again next Saturday in Cape Breton at 5:15 p.m.
Photo Credit: Janessa Hogan