Impact will give worse performances and win, Jozy Altidore will play better games and fail to score, but tonight turned out to be the Toronto striker’s night.
He certainly wasn’t at his most effective. Indeed I was surprised Greg Vanney persevered with him and kept Ayo Akinola on the bench as the game entered its final quarter.
Akinola eventually did appear, but it was not to replace the US international. Instead Greg Vanney’s decision for Altidore to remain in the action paid off, the striker’s 89th minute scuffed shot under Clement Diop not only giving Toronto victory, but establishing himself as the record goalscorer in Canadian Classique derby history. It was his twelfth goal against Montreal Impact.
On a night of records for Toronto, Vanney himself got in on the act becoming the first coach to lead a team into 30 Canadian Classique derbies.
It was a decent game and while neither side really did enough to win, there didn’t deserve to be a loser either.
The Impact dressing room must have been in sombre mood afterwards, considering how victory was conceded. They played some good stuff in the game, often looking composed and confident, displaying a decent brand of controlled football when in possession. In this latest trilogy of matches against the old enemy, tonight’s was probably their best display.
But they were undone at the death.
Samuel Piette won a free-kick taken by Rudy Camacho on the right hand side, in the 88th minute. Possession and a chance to push on for one last assault on the Toronto goal, but the French centre-back got it all wrong.
I’m sure his idea on where he wanted to put the ball was sound, unfortunately his execution wasn’t and the ball, poorly struck, skewed left in a bending arc landing directly at the feet of Nick DeLeon in the TFC midfield. DeLeon wasted little time in pinging it forward where Altidore had managed to gain a couple of steps on a surprised Binks.
Diop advanced but was unable to prevent the striker’s half-hit finish from entering the goal.
It was an error of sizeable proportion, magnified still further by the context of the game sat within a bitter rivalry and the goal’s lateness, the Impact given only a frenzied five minutes of added time by which to respond.
Thierry Henry mumbled something post-match about having to ‘learn from our mistakes’, but he must have been seething inside after this one.
It was an unhappy night for Camacho who wasn’t without culpability on the first Toronto goal either. A Montreal raid had just concluded with Westberg diving to gain possession on the edge of his area. Quick thinking by the ‘keeper set Richie Laryea off on a quick counter. The Canadian international turned Camacho, coming from behind, all too easily, and from that moment on, the Impact’s shape was lost.
Momentum took Laryea hurdling past Wanyama. Binks came across to challenge, but couldn’t get close enough. Had Laryea’s pull-back gone unhindered, Montreal might have survived the attack, but Binks managed to get contact, squirming the ball across goal and Piatti completed the formalities.
In between Toronto’s goals, Montreal deservedly found themselves back in the game on 53 minutes, Victor Wanyama, beating Westberg on the far post, but not the assistant referee who called offside. VAR over-ruled however and the delayed goal celebrations began.
Quioto with a couple of effective finishes had goals disallowed for offside in each half, Binks, Maciel and Wanyama were all positives throughout for the Impact for whom Taider could have opened the scoring twice within the game’s first quarter-hour. The Algerian’s headed effort on 10 mins was particularly poor.
And for Toronto, Altidore had a golden opportunity to edge his side in front on 81 mins, yet the out-of-sorts striker was unable to get much purchase on the ball when clean through, Diop saving comfortably.
The excellent Richie Laryea also brought a good diving save from the Impact ‘keeper earlier than that on 58 mins.
Despite the decent catalogue of chances the game looked all the world like ending all square. The scent of a winning goal wasn’t at all prominent in the closing minutes.
That was until Camacho’s mis-hit free-kick and the opportunity presented to Altidore via DeLeon in the 89th minute.
Toronto will be mightily relieved at the outcome. Despite a good start to the series involving Canadian clubs, poor set-piece defending and profligacy in front of goal in the last couple of games threatened to derail their challenge. Tonight’s fortunate, late winner swings the pendulum emphatically back in their favour.
Montreal now go to Vancouver where they must win twice with a margin of +4 over the two games if they are to have any hope at all of retaining the Canadian Championship title won in such dramatic fashion a year ago.
IMFC - Diop - Camacho, Binks, Raitala - Brault-Guillard, Wanyama, Maciel, Lappalainen (Okwonkwo, 80) - Piette (Jackson-Hamel, 90+1), Taider - Quioto
Bench (not used) - Bush, Fanni, Waterman, Sejdic, Yao, Corrales, Shome.
TFC - Westberg - Auro, Gonzalez, Mavinga, Morrow - Piatti (Akinola, 80), Delgado, Laryea (DeLeon, 68), Osorio - Pozuelo (Zavaleta, 90+2) - Altidore (Endoh, 90+2)
Bench (not used) - Bono, Ciman, DeLeon, Fraser.
Match Officials -
Referee - David Gantar
Asst Ref - Oscar Mitchell-Carvalho, Philippe Briere
4th Official - Fabrizio Stasolla
VAR - Drew Fischer