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Piatti Strike The Difference, Title Remains on Knife-edge

IMFC snap TFC’s unbeaten ten-game streak.

MLS: Canadian Championship Final-Toronto FC at Montreal Impact
Piatti celebrates after scoring a ‘worldie’ to defeat TFC in the first-leg. How the Impact have missed this player in 2019.
Eric Bolte-USA TODAY Sports

Montreal Impact last evening ended Toronto FC’s nine-game unbeaten streak in the first-leg of this Canadian Championship Final. The tie remains finely balanced, with the Impact set to defend the slenderest of leads at BMO Field next Wednesday.

But it is a lead without concession of an away goal which means if Montreal score in Toronto, the Reds will need at least three in response, to retain the Canadian Championship.
The decisive moment on the night came as so often before from Ignacio Piatti, the Argentinian’s wonderful, 25-yard strike arrowing into the top corner past Bono, who couldn’t get close in the Toronto goal. It appeared that Taider’s pass had become caught under the striker’s feet after Piatti’s imperfect first touch, but he was still able to launch a screamer with his second. The ball was still rising as it bulged the net.

MLS: Canadian Championship Final-Toronto FC at Montreal Impact
Piatti about to let fly, for the game’s only goal, a spectacular effort which could yet be decisive.
Eric Bolte-USA TODAY Sports

That was on 17 mins and the 11th time Piatti had registered against Toronto, but Montreal may yet rue missed opportunities which could have set them up more comfortably heading into the second-leg.

Lappalainen spurned the best of those when put through by Taider’s delicious pass on 53 mins. The Finn, displaying his ability to play on the right side, made good contact, lifted the ball over Bono, but agonizingly had to watch as it bounced the wrong side of the post.

Just before, Taider, so often this season maligned for his dead ball artistry, played a dangerous curling free-kick into the box, but neither Piatti nor Lappalainen could apply the finishing touch.

It was a good performance from Taider, however he blotted his copybook by incurring a yellow card, showing frustration after a second clear corner was denied and awarded as a goal-kick to Toronto. Quite how both officials, with unfaulted positioning, managed to get the second of those decisions wrong was quite beyond belief. Either way, it was enough to attract sanction for the Algerian, who now misses the second-leg.

Montreal must also sweat on the fitness of Bojan, who found the net in the dying embers of the first-half only to be ruled offside, for the game in Toronto. Urruti, his replacement became another casualty, stretchered off near the game’s conclusion. This may enforce a weekend trip to California for Ignacio Piatti after all, despite initial plans allowing the striker to rest up at home in preparation for the Toronto second-leg.

MLS: Canadian Championship Final-Toronto FC at Montreal Impact
Taider (closest to camera), an influential performer on the night, celebrates the goal with Piatti. A yellow-card, 5 mins from time, rules the Algerian out of the second-leg.
Eric Bolte-USA TODAY Sports

Toronto FC’s performance was a disjointed one, probably understandable due to the exclusion of Altidore, Pozuelo and Delgado, all of whom were introduced in the second half.
The Reds best chance in the first-half fell to Jacob Shaffelburg (37 mins), who volleyed brilliantly with his ‘wrong’ foot, bringing off a spectacular save from Diop. Diop, two mins earlier, had to field a long-range free-kick from Ciman after Piette had lost possession and pulled-back Bradley. Piette received a yellow card for his troubles.

Another chance fell to Altidore from Pozuelo’s pass in the 66th minute, the American striker holding off Cabrera before unleashing a shot that was beaten away by Diop for a corner. For once Toronto’s colossal #17 would not have his name entered on the scoresheet against the Impact.

This was a much improved performance by the home side, after two home defeats which saw them blanked by visiting opposition, although it must be remembered it’s only halfway through and that Toronto had accustomed starters on the bench.

Greg Vanney in his post-match press conference, appeared confident that 0-1 is not by any means an irretrievable deficit with his side returning home to BMO Field. Perhaps a slight irritation from the American that his side had not registered an away goal, however he seemed content that another game in his team’s 7 games in 22 days schedule was done and dusted without too much damage inflicted.

Clement Diop will be encouraged by the clean-sheet, and his Montreal team-mates can derive inspiration by knowing they will lift the cup next week should they lose by only one goal, provided they score.

Both sides have appointments in LA this Saturday before hostilities resume on the shores of Lake Ontario.

Line-ups (projected) -

IMFC - Diop - Brault-Guillard, Sagna, Cabrera, Raitala - Lappalainen (Okwonkwo, 77), Piette, Taider, Shome, Piatti (c) - Bojan (Urruti, 45+1) (Bahia, 90+3)

TFC - Bono - Laryea, Moor, Ciman, Morrow - DeLeon, Bradley (c), Osorio - Gallardo (Pozuelo, 46), Mullins (Altidore, 46), Shaffelburg (Delgado, 74)

Match Officials -

Referee - Yusri Rudolf
Asst Refs - Oscar Mitchell-Carvalho, Lyes Arfa
4th Official - David Gantar

Attendance: 10,807