There was late heartbreak for Montreal last night as they fought out a pulsating drama with Atlanta United.
As the game entered its final minute of added time a Montreal raid broke down on the edge of Atlanta’s box, Ibrahim opting to shoot rather than slip Hamdy in, to his right. Atlanta broke quickly, Mulraney a second-half substitute, produced a right-wing cross and Marcelino Moreno fighting off cramp on his “last legs”, steered a perfect header beyond Diop.
The ball glanced the upright before entering the net. Fine margins. Two inches to the right, it’s no goal and Montreal collects its first-ever point at Mercedes Benz.
The game’s conclusion was tough on Montreal who went toe to toe with one of the league’s best-resourced clubs. The action was fast and furious, although Wilfried Nancy will have recognized the developing composure he preaches to his team.
Normally, past Montreal visits to the Atlanta venue have been all about sitting back, absorbing pressure and trying to nick something on the break. Last night, although there were times when Montreal were forced to defend, they displayed a determination to take the game to their hosts.
They didn’t play for a draw but they should’ve had one.
Clear cut opportunities for either side were at a premium. Atlanta, while always physical and aggressive, mirroring their coach’s playing days, were more scrappy and strong, rarely precise or productive.
The service to a still recovering Martinez was lacking but credit Montreal for cutting off the supply and carving out a few chances of their own.
Their best moments fell to Johnsen who shouldered a Mihailovic free-kick when attempting to head goal wards in minute 32, and Miller whose 52nd minute marauding run forward resulted in a strike which skimmed the top of Brad Guzan’s bar. Ahmed Hamdy also had an opportunity on 74, opting for power behind an angled drive, which the goalkeeper parried before collecting.
Although alert, neither goalkeeper had much to trouble them. Surprisingly it was one of Clement Diop’s least busy nights, the only save of note coming early on, when he had to recover his position urgently after anticipating a Lopez header across the box, which the Atlanta man eventually placed on goal.
Elsewhere for Montreal the wide men, Choiniere and Lappalainen, perhaps unsurprisingly failed to convince defensively, although the former showed some nice touches going forward, just not often enough. Lappalainen looked out of sorts throughout. The Finn never really got going and there wasn’t much chemistry between him and midfield partner, Mihailovic.
Atlanta coach, Heinze will be delighted with the victory, one which for all but the closing seconds looked unlikely, but he’ll realize there’s work ahead. For all his team’s energy and agression, there was little finesse or cohesion.
It was wonderful again to see fans back at football. Over 40,000 filled the stadium producing a strange football atmosphere, a very peculiarly American one, but it was noisy.
Perhaps that was the real winner on the night.
ATL: Guzan - Robinson, Sosa, Franco (Walkes, 46) - Lennon, Ibarra, Moreno, Bello - Hyndman, Lopez (Mulraney, 78) - Martinez
Bench Not Used: Lundgaard, Hernandez, Ambrose, De John, Rossetto, Torres, Conway
Coach: Gabriel Heinze
CFM: Diop - Struna, Camacho, Miller - Choiniere (Kizza, 79), Wanyama, Piette, Mihailovic (Ibrahim, 79), Lappalainen (Bassong, 70) - Quioto (Hurtado, 72), Johnsen (Hamdy, 65)
Bench Not Used: Pantemis, Waterman, Maciel, Torres
Coach: Wilfried Nancy
Match Officials -
Referee: Silviu Petrescu
Asst Refs: Jeffrey Greeson, Claudiu Badea
4th Official: Elvis Osmanovic
VAR: Chris Penso
Asst VAR: Jozef Batko
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