FC Winnipeg Lions win 2016 Manitoba Cup provincial title

With report from Eric MacLise

FC Winnipeg Lions won the 2016 Manitoba Cup men's championship, their fourth provincial title in five years. In a Manitoba Cup final that pitted two former national champions, FC Winnipeg Lions captured the honours 4-2 on kicks from the penalty mark following a 2:2 a.e.t. draw with Hellas SC. FC Winnipeg Lions now return to the Sport Chek National Championships for the first time since 2014.

The Lions had all but wrapped up the championship match when Hellas SC equalised on a Genio Cisternino shot in the 90th minute, sending the final into extra time. Hellas SC then hit the crossbar in extra time on a shot by Elom Akpalo. With no winner after 120 minutes, FC Winnipeg Lions went perfect on kicks from the penalty mark and goalkeeper Sean Golden made the difference with a pair of saves.

"The team has really come a long way this year," said Tony Nocita, Head Coach of FC Winnipeg Lions. "We have a very deep roster and a very good group of players, so it was just a matter of us being consistent. We worked hard all season and we have been very consistent in the league play and in the Manitoba Cup."

From the start of the match, FC Winnipeg Lions were the stronger side through 20 minutes, but then trailed after Hellas SC opened the scoring in the 26th minute. Cheick Diallo scored on the scramble after a Genio Cisternino free kick.

FC Winnipeg Lions then equalised in the 36th minute, with Brendan Rattai scoring from outside the box after an Anthony Lourenco pass. In the second half, Lions forward A.J. Naumiuk made it 2-1 on a penalty kick in the 67th minute.

"We were ready for this match and what it was going to pose for us. They are a really good team and they gave us a real good battle tonight. We could have scored a couple of goals early, but it just didn't work that way. We stuck with it and in the end we came away with it."

In the provincial final, FC Winnipeg Lions' starting XI featured Sean Golden in goal, Dan Keith at right back, Adam Hajkowski and Andrew Aitken at centre back, Domi Antonini at left back, and Matt Appler, Moreno Alberti, Hugo Figueiredo, Anthony Lourenco, A.J. Naumiuk, and Brendan Rattai from the midfield up through to the attack. Coach Tony Nocita featured Zachary Harrison and Go Kumagai as substitutes. From the bench, Braeden Hidalgo-Mazzei, Valeriy Kornilov, Tevin Olivier-Job, Jordon Smith, and Krzysztof Szulc all dressed but did not feature.

The 26 August provincial final was played in front of approximately 1,000 fans at the Ralph Cantafio Sports Complex in Winnipeg. This marked FC Winnipeg Lions' ninth provincial title over the last 22 years, having previously won in 1995, 1996, 1998, 2002, 2007, 2012, 2013, and 2014. The club won the national title men's Challenge Trophy in 2002 (at the time the club was known as Sons of Italy).

Canada Soccer’s Sport Chek National Championships run 5-10 October 2016, with the adult amateur competitions hosted this year in St. John’s, Newfoundland Labrador. At all age levels, the Sport Check National Championships provide a meaningful soccer experience for host cities and participating teams, as well as the players, coaches, support staff, officials, and volunteers.