CF Montreal has played more poorly and won this season.
Fans may have feared the worst pre-game with an inexperienced back three in place, but Montreal went toe-to-toe with the East’s form team and almost snatched a draw, which in the end they may just have deserved.
But once again in this fixture a familiar nemesis was the difference. Gustavo Bou, New England’s Argentine striker, separating the teams with two clinical strikes, the first of which in the 29th minute, as fierce as you’ll see so long as the beautiful game is played.
James Pantemis didn’t move until the ball had thumped the bar twice before troubling the net. Choiniere in unfamiliar territory should have closed the attacker down more effectively, his positioning influenced by the advancement of another untracked opponent on his outside, but what a blistering finish it was. On Paul Mariner Night, it was one the former Ipswich Town and England striker would’ve been proud of.
Montreal had the best of the early exchanges, but perhaps too early for Djordje Mihailovic, the visitors’ eventual marksman when their goal did come in the 79th minute.
Mihailovic and Torres both worked openings for the American midfielder within the first five minutes, one sliced, the other pulled, but each going the wrong side of opposing uprights.
With an inexperienced back three, facing one of the league’s best attacks. The best form of defence is often to attack, and Montreal appeared to adopt that strategy.
But despite chances created, defensive vulnerabilities remained. Instead of one, they could’ve descended down the tunnel at the break, three-down. There was of course that Bou thunderbolt, but minutes before, the Argentinian had become involved from an offside position in the build-up to Carles Gil’s disallowed goal, and heading to the interval an exquisite finish from Bunbury, a 35th minute replacement for concussed Buksa, was incorrectly chalked off, offside the decision.
Still it was Montreal who re-emerged strongest after the break, but again it was Bou who applied the damage. That creator-in-chief Carles Gil found Bye on an overlap on the right, Bou peeled away backwards from Camacho in the box, and when Bye’s perfect cutback found his striker, there was no mistake, the ball clinically despatched below Pantemis for number two.
The difficult task now looked nigh on impossible, but Montreal almost turned things around. Top scorer Toye should have done better from a set up by Torres from 12 yards, Knighton fielded but wasn’t tested, and on 79 came that Mihailovic counter. Again the provider was Torres, on recent evidence a player possessing the ability to unbalance opposition defences.
Brault-Guillard made a difference after his 75th minute introduction, reasonably re-prompting the question why he didn’t start the game on the right side of the midfield ahead of Choiniere.
It was an anxious last ten for the Revs during which Montreal made a quadruple substitution in an attempt to save the game.
Although that man Bou fluffed an opportunity to complete a hat-trick, the best effort of the closing exchanges was Sunusi Ibrahim’s 92nd minute, 22-yarder, again from a Torres feed, which fairly whistled only just the wrong side of relieved Knighton’s left-hand post.
With that, Montreal’s chance had gone, but they can look back on one of their more positive away-day performances. Gone was the age-old caution that has traditionally permeated and plagued such tasks.
The Eastern Conference leaders were given plenty to think about, but match-winners the calibre of Bou and Gil are often likely to give Bruce Arena’s side the edge in tight encounters. And so it proved...
NERevs: Knighton - Bye, Farrell, Bell (Delagarza JR, 62), Mafla (Caldwell, 90+5) - Kaptoum (Maciel, 63), Polster, Traustason (McNamara, 63) - Gil - Buksa (Bunbury, 36), Bou
Bench (not used): Edwards Jnr, Boateng
Coach: Bruce Arena
CFMTL: Pantemis - Waterman, Camacho, Bassong (Kizza, 83) - Choiniere (Ibrahim, 83), Wanyama, Maciel (Hamdy, 84), Lappalainen (Brault-Guillard, 75) - Mihailovic - Torres, Toye (Johnsen, 84)
Bench (not used): Breza, Bayiha.
Coach: Wilfried Nancy
Match Officials -
Referee: Alex Chilowicz
Asst Refs: Nick Uranga, Brian Dunn
4th Official: Matthew Corrigan
VAR: Malik Badawi
Asst VAR: Thomas Supple