It is done. Bad luck has been warded off. CF Montreal won 3-0 (3-1 on aggregate) against Santos Laguna on Wednesday in a show game at Olympic Stadium.
Updated February 23
Montreal thus advances to the quarter-finals of the CONCACAF Champions League. While avenging his 2009 nightmare against the same club, in the same competition.
This domination – because that’s what it was – she had been simmering for 13 years in Montreal.
Romell Quioto, committed as much as possible in this match, opened the scoring in the 9the minute. Djordje Mihailovic scored with a superb strike in the 22nde. Then Ismaël Koné, who was playing his first minutes as part of a very first tenure with the club, materialized a golden chance in the 61e.
All this, coupled with a solid defensive effort, led to a “near-perfect” performance from the hosts, Mihailovic said in a post-match videoconference.
His head coach Wilfried Nancy wanted to qualify.
“Maybe it wasn’t perfect, humbly commented the technician. Of course, we won 3-0, but what I remember is that I felt that the players were on a mission. That they didn’t care about the opponent we were playing against. »
Nancy praised the fact that his men had accepted the small adjustments made after the 1-0 defeat at Torreón last Tuesday and were starting to ‘own’ the system he wants to put in place
“I’m proud of that, I’m happy with that,” he added.
That also seemed to be the case for the 13,343 supporters gathered at the bottom of the Olympic Stadium enclosure.
Take advantage of the gaps
Santos Laguna has a porous defense this season in Liga MX (13 goals against in 6 games). The Guerreros are currently languishing in the slums of their championship.
What’s more, two of the centre-backs who started the match at Torreón, Matheus Doria and Félix Torres, were injured for Wednesday’s game. Hugo Rodríguez and Franco Pizzichillo replaced them in central defence.
CF Montreal took advantage of this. To the chagrin of dozens of Mexican supporters gathered in sections 147 to 151 of the Stadium.
And it was Eduardo Sebrango, legendary striker of the Montreal club who had notably scored 3 goals in the previous confrontation, who rang the bell for the group of supporters 1642 Montreal.
The first time Sebrango was able to run, he was doing it to celebrate a superb streak that led to Romell Quioto’s great success.
From midfield, Victor Wanyama sent a deep lob to the right towards Mathieu Choinière. The Quebec player, one of the best on his team on Wednesday, then served a sublime pass (we weigh our words) to Quioto. The trajectory of Choinière’s ball was art. The leather passed behind two Lagunian defenders, then joined the attacker in the box. Quioto got rid of a final Guerrero, then the keeper, before sending the ball with his right foot into the net from a completely restricted angle.
“It’s the Romell we know,” Nancy said. I’m not surprised. I’m happy for him. »
At 1-0, the mark followed the course of play from the start of the match. We were already tied in the home and away series.
Then, at the 22eDjordje Mihailovic forced Sebrango to swing his arms a second time.
A good passing game between Lassi Lappalainen and Kamal Miller sent the ball to Quioto in the box. He put his foot on the globe, then immobilized it… to finally find Mihailovic at the edge of the six meters. The American went up, up, then took a powerful left-footed shot. The ball hit the crossbar and hit the ropes hard.
“I saw an opening and I shouted for the ball, recalled the American after the meeting. Romell passed it to me. I took a touch, then kicked him as hard as I could with my left foot. »
According to Mihailovic, the “momentum” acquired with the Canadian Championship title at the end of last season explains the good foundations on which the club is standing at the start of the 2022 season.
“We have a good idea of what we want to accomplish this year. We are a confident young team. »
Even so, Santos Laguna still only needed one goal to advance to the quarter-finals at this point.
And Ismaël Koné was able to take advantage of his golden opportunity to reassure supporters… and witnesses to the collapse of 2009.
It was the very first tenure with CF Montreal for the young Koné, a 19-year-old player from the Academy. They were also his first minutes with the first team. If his start to the match was a bit complicated, he found a great way to catch up.
At the 61e minute, Joaquín Torres skillfully passed to Djordje Mihailovic in the 6 meters. The latter sent with his right foot towards the center, Lassi Lappalainen let it pass… and the ball found Koné near the penalty area. Bang. 3-0.
“Honestly, I don’t even know what to say,” Koné told CF Montreal. It was amazing. My friends, my family came. I felt too good. […] I can’t describe the feeling, it’s too many emotions at once. »
“We have to write a story for this club”
Arriving at the club only on Friday, striker Kei Kamara replaced Quioto at the 75e. We also saw defender Alistair Johnston for the first time in a Montreal uniform. The Canadian international was inconvenienced by COVID-19 until last week.
The Ultras, who oppose the change of identity of the club, had made it known before the meeting that they would not be present at this match or the next ones.
At the end of the match, the bell of 1642 was heard for long minutes after the final whistle. Montreal players celebrated and waved to fans from the field to the stands.
Wilfried Nancy knows that this victory, his club wanted it.
“I haven’t checked my cell phone yet, but I know they’re happy. It is the most important. […] At the level of the players, I often tell them that we want to go as high as possible. We have to build a history for the club. That’s what we did tonight. »
In the quarter-finals, CF Montreal will face the winner of the series between Hamilton’s Forge FC, in CPL, and Cruz Azul, another Mexican club. Hamilton lost 1-0 in the first leg at home and will travel to Mexico on Thursday for the second leg.
Montreal will begin its MLS season at 1 p.m. Sunday against Orlando City SC in Florida.