MONTREAL – There are full houses, then there are full houses like the one that burned down the Stade Saputo on Sunday night.
In an environment worthy of their ambitions, CF Montreal began their playoff run with a 2-0 victory over Orlando City SC.
It is a goal by Ismaël Koné, scored in minute 68me minute, which allowed the hosts to offer the club a first victory in a playoff game since 2016 and thus honor their status as favorites. Arriving in support on the left of the penalty area, the 20-year-old rookie completed a deft display by Kei Kamara and Djordje Mihailovic by slipping the ball between goalkeeper Pedro Gallese’s legs.
“I had cocked my shot and was ready to shoot, but when I was going to shoot I saw Ishmael out of the corner of my eye and noticed that nobody was covering him,” Mihailovic described after the match. It’s a game we played this week in training. That’s why our coach is in the running for the title of coach of the year! What we do in training works in games. »
“That is quality in Djordje. He is a great passer, a great creator, Koné said to return the courtesy to his accomplice. For us, he has been a great help for the last two years. And then in training we often work on exercises of ‘third man runs’ and that’s what happened today. They are automatisms that we create between us and I think that today we saw it on the ground. »
Koné hit the first shot on goal in a tough match in which his team took almost 60% of the possession.
Mihailovic ended the night with an exclamation point by scoring from the penalty spot in second-half added time. It was one last chance to celebrate for a frenzied crowd that had begun noisily filling the space long before kick-off. From the warm-up period, chants and cheers beyond the confines of the stands from the two main fans undermined the theory evoked by captain Samuel Piette earlier this week that for the players, this big Sunday match was no more that “the 35me game of the season. »
“It gave me and the guys goosebumps,” Mihailovic said. That’s why we dream of playing professionally when we’re just kids. A home playoff game is special. It had only happened to me once before today and believe me it had nothing to do with what I experienced today. »
Still undefeated in four playoff games in their history at the Stade Saputo, the Impact are 12-1-3 in their last 16 games. His last loss dates back to August 31.
The Montreal XI also managed to advance to the next round without the contribution of their star striker Romell Quioto, whose presence was uncertain due to a lower body injury. Quioto was in uniform, but was not used as a substitute.
“We were ready for their tactics”
While the visitors walked away empty-handed without taking a single shot, this matchup between the second-seeded and seventh-seeded Eastern Conference seed wasn’t necessarily a nature walk for CF Montreal.
Vastly neglected, the Lions created a handful of chances that only a silly lack of precision in the last few meters made in vain. They also used all the little tricks of the trade to make life difficult for their hosts and try to make them leave, which would be fatal. Gallese found the most sensitive chord by zealously delaying each of his throw-ins.
“We had worked on it for the week, he calmly approached Wilfried Nancy. We had shown the players different situations and they were ready. No matter what, I wanted them to stay in control and they did well. »
“Even before the start of the match, we were ready for their tactics, we knew how they would try to waste time,” confirmed Mihailovic. We knew that if we stayed true to the game plan and in control of our emotions, our opportunities would come. »
Some refereeing decisions have also tested the mental toughness of Montrealers. At 18me minute, Koné fell in the penalty area after contact with defender Ruan. at 45me, Lassi Lappalainen was shot down in the same place by Cesar Araujo. On each occasion, referee Ismail Elfath ignored the victims’ complaints.
“Of course it’s difficult to play football when the referee is not on both sides… it’s weird, huh! », Koné was allowed to slip.
Elfath had to take the video referee’s signal to award Mihailovic the final shot of the game.
CF Montreal will meet its opponent for Monday’s Eastern Conference semifinal when it takes on the winner of New York City FC vs. Inter Miami. The match will take place next Sunday at 1:00 p.m. at the Saputo Stadium.
The other semi-final will be between the Philadelphia Union and FC Cincinnati.
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