Sports can be so cruel. The outcome in games or competitions is not always the fair or deserved one. Not just because I am a Montreal native or an Impact fan, but they deserved better in last night’s game – a 3-2 home loss.
On a beautiful evening at Saputo Stadium, fans started off delirious then went home disappointed with what should have been. Even worse than the regret over what should have been it was what has become so typical of MLS in that the refereeing was awful. Even with the help of the controversial VAR or video assistant referee. Something has to be done…and quickly! Something (technology) which has been brought in to decrease human error is just frustrating people. Such has been the case in the Women’s World Cup which is taking place presently and definitely on this summer night in Montreal.
Fans had barely sit back down in the seats after the national anthems when the enigma that has been local boy Anthony Jackson-Hamel had put the home side up 1-0. With their talisman midfielder Ignacio Piatti out with injury for most of the season and rumours swirling that he is on the verge of the leaving the club for San Lorenzo in his native Argentina, the bleu-blanc-noir has seen a season long struggle for offense. In his first season with Montreal, striker Maximiliano Urruti has struggled to score only finding the back of the net 2 times despite being the regular starter. The only other pure striker, Jackson-Hamel, has scored more, but seems to not be in the good books of head coach Remi Garde, so rarely starts or even plays. This despite the fact that he had found the back of the net more often than Urruti while playing a lot fewer minutes.
It took just a single minute for Jackson-Hamel to show his touch around the net. Central defender Zakaria Diallo played a long ball along the right hand side which midfielder Mathieu Choiniere flicked on ahead into the path of a streaking Jackson-Hamel. He beat his defender to the ball then put the ball through Brent Kallman’s legs and then calmly and deftly flicked a shot short side on Minnesota’s keeper, Vito Mannone.
The stadium exploded. Fans were delirious. For a team which has struggled to score had gone up in the first minute. A dream start for the team, which sits in 3rd in the East and with 3 points could be in 1st. 27 seconds in. The fastest goal ever scored at Saputo Stadium. Positivity washed over everyone in the stadium except those in white shirts and their small pocket of fans in the upper left hand corner behind their goal.
That euphoria only last 8 odd minutes as the visitors showed their mettle by quieting the crowd by scoring their own early goal. Kevin Molino played a perfect ball into Mason Troye and he made no mistake lashing a shot past Evan Bush. A hush came over the crowd. The goal put a damper on the party which had started. It was also unexpected because it came to be due to an uncharacteristic giveaway by holding midfielder Samuel Piette, freshly returned from his stint with Canada at the Gold Cup. Piette is sually as reliable as death and taxes and yet here he was coughing up the ball cheaply.
Showing a bit of their character, the Impact did not lower their heads. Forging forward it took just a few minutes for the home side to go back up. This time it was courtesy of a set piece. Wearing the captain’s armband despite the return of Pietter, Saphir Taidir swung in a corner and it was a good one right into the 6 yard box. Marrone could not get to it, but central defender Rudy Camacho could. He was delighted with his first Impact goal. Thirteen minutes in and Montreal had scored two to take back the lead 2-1. Improbable most would have said.
More improbable would be the way that Minnesota scored their second goal. It happened in injury time at the end of the first half. Ethan Finlay came in on a break against Bush. Using his feet the Impact keeper forced Finlay to his left and in trying to get past Bush, Finlay crashed into him and tumbled to the ground. Referee Alan Kelly called a penalty. Soon he was circled by protesting Impact players imploring him to look at VAR. He did and amazingly confirmed his penalty call. Finlay scored and the game was once again tied.
The half time break seemed not have the effect of composing the Impact as they conceded again almost immediately after. In the 47th minute Molino’s cross went off an Impact defender and fell to Troye, who quickly put it behind a stunned Bush.
In order to get even a point out of this crucial game, Garde put on all the offensive players he could, subbing on Urruti, Henry Novillo and Omar Browne, but to no avail. There were no more goals.
But that is not the end of the VAR/reffing problems. Late in the game, it seemed like the Impact were to be awarded a penalty shot of their own when an attempted cross by Taider clearly hit off the arm of a Minnesota defender. A corner was called, but VAR was consulted after protests by Montreal players. Even after looking at it Kelly denied the penalty. Incredible!
Despite the fact that Minnesota came into the game on a high having won their last four games in all competition, they must have been coming in tired with this being their third game in 10 days. Montreal had to take advantage of that and didn’t. A killer instinct had to be shown and wasn’t. You also cannot at home allow three goals against and expect to win. At the end of the season they might look back upon games like this and points dropped and regret it.
Next up for the Impact is a tilt in the first leg of the Canadian Championship on the road on July 10 against York 9 FC at Yorks Lion Stadium.
-On-Field Officials: Referee – Alan Kelly
Assistant Referees – Claudiu Badea and Gianni Facchini
-Goals: 1st Half:
1st minute: Montreal Impact – Anthony Jackson-Hamel assisted by Zakaria Diallo and Mathieu Choiniere
9th minute: Minnesota United FC – Mason Toye assisted by Kevin Molino
13th minute: Montreal Impact – Rudy Camacho assisted by Saphir Taider
45th minute: Minnesota United FC – Ethan Finlay (pk)
47th minute: Minnesota United FC – Mason Toye assisted by Kevin Molino
-Shots on Goal: Montreal – 6
Minnesota – 5
-Corners: Montreal – 11
Minnesota – 1
-Man of the Match: Rudy Camacho
-Final Score: Montreal – 2
Minnesota – 3