Tuesday, 15 May 2012

Vancouver Whitecaps 3 v 1 FC Edmonton

Wednesday 9th May 2012
Canadian Championship, Semi Final Second Leg
BC Place, Vancouver
Aggregate Score: 5-1
Admission: CA$28.00
Programme: Free
Attendance: 15,011
Match rating: 4

Having visited the BC Place just four days previously, I was rather undecided as to whether to take in this game, all the more so as this would be the second leg of a cup game in which lower league opposition, FC Edmonton, of the North American Soccer League, lost the first leg 0-2. I also had memories of attending FC Edmonton's match at Toronto last season in similar circumstances when, after losing the first leg 0-3 at home, the game at Toronto was painfully poor, with Edmonton never looking like scoring and Toronto did just about enough to win the game 1-0 on the night. However, I finally decided to purchase a ticket on the morning of the game when I found, to may amazement, that it would be cheaper to buy a ticket with the same face value at the Ticketmaster box office compared to buying online.

Before the first leg, FC Edmonton had opened their league campaign poorly, picking up just one point from their opening four games, although at the weekend they had a confidence boosting 3-0 win at the Carolina Railhawks. A trip to the Whitecaps would be a tough assignment - in their three games in the Canadian Championship since they were invited into the competition last season as a newly formed club in the second tier of North American football, they have lost each time and failed to even score a goal. The Vancouver Whitecaps narrowly lost 2-3 on aggregate to Toronto in last season's Canadian Championship final, after taking the lead on the night and on aggregate in the second leg before the game had to be abandoned due to poor weather. As they had done in the first leg, the Whitecaps elected to rest much of the first team, with just three players staying in the team from those who played on Saturday.

On a pleasant evening when the stadium's roof was left open, it appeared that the tie was put beyond all doubt when Michael Nanchoff fired home before the linesman put his flag up for offside. Television replays showed this to be a desperately poor decision, with it not even being close to offside. The Whitecaps continued to show their superior quality and class with some delightful touches, however it did appear the complacency was setting in as their football was not threatening. Instead, FC Edmonton were looking increasinly impressive, as they gained more and more possession and showed excellent patience in their approach play, although they did show a desire to readily shoot from well outside the penalty area.

FC Edmonton were quite unlucky not to have taken a lead into the half time interval, but on 54 minutes, the cat really was set amongst the pigeons, when FC Edmonton took the lead when Antonio Rago crossed into the box and Yashir Pinto managed to get in between a couple of defenders to head the ball home. Suddenly it was very much game on, as Edmonton continued to look the more likely to score again, to take the tie into extra time. However, the three subsititions made by the Whitecaps arguably changed and won then the game, as only five minutes after coming on, Sebastian Le Toux levelled the game on the night on 75 minutes, when he slotted home after a good cross by Davide Chiumiento. The keeper really should have kept the shot out though, and with the two goal aggregate lead restored, with that goal went the end of Edmonton's hopes in the tie. On 87 minutes, Maltese international Etienne Barbara was fouled in the box and took the resultant penalty, but his shot was saved by the keeper onto the post and bounced clear. However, almost immediately the Whitecaps did take the lead on the night, when Le Toux scored again, heading home Chiumiento's free kick.Three minutes into injury time and the Whitecaps scored a third, when Chiumiento claimed a hat-trick of assists, pulling the ball back for substitute Darren Mattocks to slot home. The final scoreline was incredibly harsh on Edmonton who were unexpectedly but very clearly the better side on the night, but it was the Vancouver Whitecaps who progressed to a repeat of last season's final, as Toronto were victors against Montreal Impact in the other semi-final.

Video highlights can be found at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=txbcU7_z1zA

No comments: