Renewing the rivalry

KATHY RUMLESKI -- London Free Press

, Last Updated: 7:29 AM ET

It's one of the most anticipated local matches of the season. Add the drama of most Ontario Cup games and Sunday's matchup between rivals London Portuguese and AEK Olympic will likely be a memorable one.

The two meet in the second round of the men's Ontario Cup at Cove Road field, beginning at 2:30 p.m.

"I'm anticipating a close match," says AEK manager Tom Kouzounas. "Our No. 1 goal is the Ontario Cup."

Both sides have great respect for each other, but when it comes to the game, the battles are furious.

In the Western Ontario Soccer League's Premier championship game two years ago, AEK's Patrick Painter was kicked in the head by Frank Neiva of Portuguese. Deemed unintentional by the referee, the incident is still discussed in soccer circles.

It's not likely anybody will play a tame game Sunday either.

"It's going to be a very physical game," said veteran Portuguese striker Andrew Loague. "Both our teams are physical teams. Everybody leaves everything on the field."

AEK also has something to prove as they lost 1-0 to Portuguese in the second round of Cup play last year. Loague scored the only goal.

"I'm sure they're going to be coming for revenge because last year we did knock them out of Ontario Cup," he said.

Before the Cup game even starts, there's a squabble over where it will be played.

AEK and Portuguese both play their home games at the Portuguese club. But for this game, AEK, with home-field advantage, moved the game to Cove Road.

"(Portuguese) are upset. We wanted to make it a neutral site," said Kouzounas.

Loague said he was "surprised" AEK made the move. "They play their home games there. I'm not sure why they would change to a different venue."

AEK, which won the WOSL title two years ago, have continued to add good players. Kouzounas declared this year's squad "the best team we've ever had."

Portuguese will counter with their experienced, consistent crew and long tradition of excellence -- winning nine of the past 10 league titles and the Ontario Cup in 2002.

It has already won a close match against the 2003 Ontario Cup finalists Windsor Rose City (2-1) in the first round two weeks ago.

Following the AEK-Portuguese game, Sport London Benfica will play Toronto Benfica at 5 p.m.

The women's Ontario Cup kicks off Sunday with London Forest United Eagles taking on London Marconi Westman at Fanshawe College starting at 6 p.m.

The Eagles won the under-18 Ontario Cup in 2001 and finished second at the national club championships that same year. Last year they played in the provincial league, but opted to play locally this season.

"The travel was a little bit much," said coach Anthony Camacho, who has led this squad for a number of years.

The Eagles play in the First Division of the London and Area Women's Soccer League. They sit in second place at 6-0. Sonia Curvelo and Ann Chivas lead the division in goals with eight apiece.

Marconi plays in the league's Premier Division, sitting in first with four wins and three ties.

"I'm sure it will be a competitive game," said Camacho.

Marconi manager Mike Cinicolo said his team is hungry to make it to the next round of the Ontario Cup.

"The past couple of years we've been knocked out in the first round. This year, they're pretty confident they're going to go far. We should be up for it."

Cinicolo expects leadership from forward Rachel Sarchielli, sweeper Jalena Rossi and goalkeeper Roseann Pignanelli.


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