Canadian Championship: Wild finish as Montreal rally to draw Vancouver
The Impact fought from two goals down to level the match, but the Whitecaps still hold the away goals tiebreaker heading into the second leg.
The Vancouver Whitecaps were just six minutes from claiming a two-goal opening leg victory over the Montreal Impact in the Canadian Championship final, but late goals from Laurent Ciman and Anthony Jackson-Hamel drastically changed the game -- and the two-legged series.
The Whitecaps looked poised to steal a big result in Montreal despite trailing in just about every statistic other than the score, thanks to second-half goals by Darren Mattocks and Pedro Morales.
The home side was dominant in the first half, and it nearly opened the scoring in the third minute through a Maxim Tissot shot that struck the post. Montreal had several other opportunities throughout the opening 45 minutes, forcing Whitecaps goalkeeper Paolo Tornaghi into a number of big saves.
While enjoying an 8-0 advantage in shots in the opening frame, Montreal limited the Whitecaps to only one real opportunity in the first half, with Mattocks rounding goalkeeper Eric Kronberg on a counterattack but unable to get the ball past the retreating defenders in front of the gaping Impact goal.
Despite the nearly one-way traffic, the Impact couldn't find the net and both teams went into halftime without a goal.
Perhaps predictably, Montreal's finishing woes came back to haunt it in the 65th minute when Mattocks slotted home after some great work along the left flank by youngster Kianz Froese to beat his man and send in a low cross for the Jamaican international to pounce on.
Mattocks' strike was just Vancouver's second shot on target, but the goal lit a fire under the visiting side. Just seven minutes after the opening goal, Froese and Mattocks combined again, this time earning a free kick for the 'Caps between the sideline and the penalty area. Morales stepped up and exploited Kronerg's positioning on the set piece by striking the ball off the inside of the near post and into the net for the 2-0 lead.
But the Impact would storm back into the game with two quick strikes barely a minute apart. With Montreal throwing everyone forward in hopes of finding a goal, central defender Laurent Ciman would finally give the Stade Saputo faithful something to cheer about when he rose up and powerfully headed home a corner kick in the 84th minute.
Ciman's goal got the Impact's collective tails up, and almost immediately after the restart the home side recovered the ball and drove toward the Whitecaps goal. Justin Mapp, playing in his first match since early March, made a strong run down the left and sent in a pass that met fellow substitute Jackson-Hamel at the top of the 6-yard box. The Montreal homegrown attacker calmly knocked the ball into the back of the net to send the home crowd into raptures.
The final moments of the match continued with Montreal applying pressure, as Vancouver -- which had just seen a two-goal lead slip within a matter of minutes -- looked to close up shop and take the away goals advantage into the second leg. And, despite the Impact's best efforts, that's exactly how things ended as the Whitecaps held on for the fortuitous 2-2 draw.
The two sides will contest the final leg of the Canadian Championship at BC Place on Aug. 26, with Montreal needing to score to have any chance of lifting the Voyageurs Cup for a third consecutive season.
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