Toronto Croatia took a big step toward the CSL Championship with a slim 3-2 victory over St. Catharines Wolves on Saturday, the first of two weekend semifinals being played at Esther Shiner Stadium in North York.
The Croatia win will be followed by a second semifinal on Sunday when Serbian While Eagles take on the high flying Trois-Rivieres Attak making a bid for the CSL title in their inaugural year.
Forward Hayden Fitzwilliams opened the scoring for Croatia when he beat goalkeeper Claudio Perri at the 13th minute mark following several attacks on the St. Catharines goal assisted by a strong wind out of the west.
The wind again played a part in the second Croatia goal which came at 28 minutes when two attempts to score were deflected by two St. Catharines’ players including defender Geoff Attard who was credited with an own goal, giving Toronto Croatia a 2-0 lead.
St. Catharines’ defender Danny Gallagher reduced the lead to 2-1 when he took a pass from Arnaldo Magnotta to beat Croatia goalkeeper Marko Culjak with a shot just inside the right post from 8 yards, but Croatia went 3-1 up almost on half-time with a goal by Tihomir Maletic, who took a cross from the left wing to score from 10 yards.
St. Catharines’ midfielder Arnoldo Magnotta reduced the lead to 3-2 with a well placed penalty kick just inside the post and well out of reach of goalkeeper Culjak following a hand ball by a Croatia defender at the 59th minute mark and despite a number of spirited attacks on the Croatia goal in an attempt to draw even, the Toronto team held on to advance to the final.
Toronto Croatia went the entire regular season with just one defeat, finishing second to Serbian White Eagles in the International Division and in a tournament held in Croatia early in the season won a first-year European championship for Croatian clubs based in several European countries.
Sunday’s Serbian White Eagles vs. Trois-Rivieres Attak semifinal at Esther Shiner Stadium will kickoff at 5 p.m.