As derby’s go it wasn’t a bad one, it was horrendous.
Montreal’s best and worst moments of the game each involved VAR and the contest, despite there being a gulf between the sides, was decided only thanks to the recent ludicrous change in the handball rule; another tampered-with law designed to clarify, but which succeeds only to robotize officials, exasperate fans and undermine the spirit of the game.
How there was an advantage to Montreal when the rebounding ball, travelling away from the goal, hit Emanuel Maciel’s hand from point-blank range or not much further away, I’ll never know. Yes, his arm was extended from his body, but not unnaturally, as he sought for balance and to elevate himself back to his feet.
Toronto players claimed for a penalty, eagle-eyed Mr Gantar saw the contact, applied the law as it currently exists and rightly awarded the spot-kick. Had he not, VAR might well have corrected him. Who knows, because we’re not even sure when that should happen and when it shouldn’t any more?
The tried and tested, simple yet beautiful game is becoming more and more complex and complicated with each passing season.
It was a derby played out between two sides that barely looked interested. Toronto immeasurably superior on the night, weren’t forced to get out of first-gear by a Montreal outfit that had precious little to offer. Had it been a pre-season friendly you might’ve understood the laxity, but you’d still have been annoyed at the spectacle. There wasn’t one!
Toronto FC with Jonathan Osorio playing his 250th game, extended their fine unbeaten run to 18 matches without breaking much sweat. Their game-plan to starve Montreal of the ball worked all too easily - there was barely a challenge worthy of the name throughout the match. The Impact failed to leave as much as a bruise on their great rival.
VAR came to the home side’s rescue in the 36th minute, the highlight of the game for Montreal, ruling out DeLeon’s headed goal.
Then with twelve minutes left on the clock the electronics turned on the Impact when they thought Quioto, lacking service all evening, had snatched an undeserved equalizer. The Honduran was unlucky. Despite the calm finish he was marginally offside from Maciel’s pass.
In between, Alejandro Pozuelo rolled the dead ball past Diop from the penalty-spot in the 50th minute, the result of Maciel’s unfortunate, unintended indiscretion.
The Impact were denied the services of key players in Taider and Piette, each of whose wives had given birth, Piette’s as we understand, during the match. Bojan Krkic was again missing with injury. And Toronto were without their Triple A strike force of Altidore, Akinola and Achara, also losing deputy striker Patrick Mullins to injury on 19 mins.
There really isn’t much more to say about this one, so we’ll leave it to the coaches...
Thierry Henry chose to praise the Toronto performance rather than focus on his own team’s short-comings.
“You know Toronto kept the ball at the beginning, didn’t give us the ball back. Pozuelo, Piatti, guys like that in the middle, they know how to manipulate the ball, and so it became difficult for us to get it back. Once you don’t get it back obviously you can’t impose your style so it became difficult.
“Like I said they were better than us on the day, but we have a chance to rectify that on Tuesday night.”
The Impact coach didn’t want to get into discussion over the penalty decision, giving an emphatic... “I don’t want to talk about referees. I said it many times. I said it after. That is not my time.”
Toronto coach Greg Vanney also had good words for his players. “The last few days have been exhausting in many ways, lots of things going on, lots of discussions. That went on well into the evening [Thursday night].
“There’s a lot of things going on, there’s a lot of things on people’s minds. And our guys were able to pull it together for the game.”
IMFC - Diop - Camacho, Binks, Raitala - Brault-Guillard, Wanyama, Maciel, Lappalainen - Urruti (Okwonkwo, 71), Sejdic (Shome, 69) - Quioto
TFC - Westberg - Auro, Gonzalez, Mavinga, Morrow - Piatti, Delgado (Fraser, 79), Bradley, Osorio - Piatti - Pozuelo - Mullins (DeLeon, 19)
Match Officials -
Referee - David Gantar
Assistant Ref - Oscar Mitchell-Carvalho, Stephanie Fortin
4th Official - Silviu Petrescu
VAR - Drew Fisher