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London AEK suddenly headed for nationals
Sun, September 28, 2008
An ineligible player violation disqualifies Real Toronto from Ontario title




London AEK men's soccer team is Ontario Cup champion.

AEK played in the final two weeks ago, losing 2-1 to Real Toronto in Toronto.

But an Ontario Soccer Association investigation revealed Real had used an ineligible player.

Martin Painter, coach of AEK, received a telephone call Thursday from the OSA, asking if it turned out Toronto had used an ineligible player, would the London club be available to represent Ontario at the national championships in Newfoundland the second week of October.

AEK did not request an investigation and had no idea the situation existed until they were notified by the OSA.

"I had to talk to the players but told him I would try and make it happen," said Painter. "We had no idea any of this was happening but we're happy we're going to get a chance to play."

On Friday, the OSA called confirming Real Toronto used an ineligible player.

Real was a team basically put together to win the Ontario Cup and the national championship. The team used its affiliation with several Canadian Soccer League clubs for players. It registered in the Ontario Soccer League's lowest-ranked league simply to qualify for the Ontario Cup.

Real Toronto had already signed a maximum 25 players to its roster. It signed an additional player who played, giving the team one more than the allowed limit and making that player ineligible.

The situation apparently came to the attention of the OSA when Real filled in its roster for the national tournament, and when it was checked against the official OSA roster, the extra player was noticed.

"The issue we have is trying to get some of our players off work," said Painter. "We may have some issues with a couple of them, but we're going to do everything we can to make it work.

"To a man, they were really excited about the opportunity of getting a chance to play in the nationals."

The reversal puts the London team in a unique situation. AEK will travel to St. John's, joining the North London Galaxy women's team who won the Ontario Cup the week before.

The Galaxy is coached by Geoff Painter, Martin's father. London will have a chance to bring home two national senior titles.

"It's not going to be easy," Martin Painter said. "These are national championships, so you are going to get 10 good teams. But you never know what's going to happen."




Shorthanded AEK comes up just short
ONTARIO CUP SOCCER: Down 2-0, the London side couldn't equalize against Real Toronto and fell 2-1 in the final


TORONTO -- It won't be much consolation for London's AEK but they gave Real Toronto all it they could handle and more.

In the end, AEK couldn't make it back from a 2-0 deficit, losing 2-1 in the men's Ontario Cup final last night.

But in the driving rain, AEK pushed Toronto to the final whistle, just missing earning a draw when a Ryan Avola header just skittered past the post with less than two minutes left in the game.

Real Toronto, for all intents and purposes an all-star team made up of Canadian Soccer League players, were left scrambling and hanging on with 10 men to a shorthanded London team.

"There was no intimidation factor, none at all," said AEK captain Jovan Ivanovic. "It was just a good opportunity to come out and play those guys. They are a good team, skilled but there was no intimidation factor because some of our older guys went through this before. I thought we played really well."

Ivanovic gave AEK life in the 83rd minute.

After a late first half goal by Hayden Fitzwilliams and a 54th minute marker by Kadian Lecky, it looked as if it would be a walk in the park for Real.

The 2-0 lead was a harsh judgment on AEK who managed to stay with Real but had nothing to show for it. Real constructed most of the good scoring chances but the AEK's backline was solid.

But when Lecky committed a harsh foul, earning a straight red card with 10-minutes left, the balance tipped toward London.

A minute after the ejection, Ivanovic soared high into the penalty area to nod home a corner and from then on, AEK pushed forward.

"There were times when we had our heads down," Ivanovic said. "But we never stopped. We pushed the ball around well."

AEK was looking to become the first London team to win a men's Ontario Cup championship since London Portuguese did it in 2002.

AEK has provided some of the best men's soccer in London in years. They play in a tough Western Ontario Soccer League that has a number of solid men's teams.

AEK usually fields a good blend of veterans and young players. They were hampered through because they were missing a number of frontline players, some of who had gone back to school.

Missing from the lineup were Todd Rutledge, Haris Cecik, Mike Pareira and Geort Remjin. Matt Cuthburt was dressed but couldn't play because of injury.

Also having to watch from the sideline was coach Martin Painter who was serving the fourth game of a suspension.

Manager Tom Kouzounas and assistant coach John Dreliozis handled the bench.

"I thought we played well and held our own," Kouzounas said. "I think having our full team here would have made a difference but we have a lot of good players behind them, heart and soul players who did a good job. We came in as real underdogs."

Toronto came into the game as heavy favourites. It was a team put together specifically for an Ontario Cup run. Real affiliated itself with numerous CSL teams. They play in the lowest-rung of the Ontario Soccer League to be eligible to play Ontario Cup.

They are quick and skilled and held together by central defender Rick Titus, who had a stint with Toronto FC.

"We knew we were going against the best of the best," Kouzounas said. "We knew we could play. It's only one game, we thought we could pull it out . . . we almost did."

Clearly every player on AEK thought the same thing. At the end of the match, it was a disappointed team receiving second-place medals.

"I thought we had the equalizer. It was so close," Ivanovic said. "That was our goal to pressure, pressure, pressure and not let them sit back. I thought we put on a good show."

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