Atlético Ottawa returned to winning ways at home on Sunday afternoon, as a brace from Ballou Tabla was enough for them to see out a 2-1 win at TD Place over FC Edmonton.
Hoping to rebound from last weekend’s home loss to Forge, Ottawa manager Carlos Gonzalez made three changes to his lineup, handing starts to U-21 eligible players Zakaria Bahous and Zachary Roy. Edmonton’s Alan Koch made four changes, as Azriel Gonzalez and Wesley Timoteo lined up on the flanks, and Luke Singh and Cale Loughrey returned at centre-back.
The game opened with an energetic tempo as both sides sought to attack. Ottawa nearly opened the scoring just six minutes in, as Ballou Tabla found himself played in all alone on the goalkeeper, but Andreas Vaikla was able to make an excellent save to deny the forward. Things calmed down somewhat after that, as the two teams began to settle into their formation more and battled for space in the middle of the park.
Midway through the first half, the skies in Ottawa opened and a torrential downpour of rain began, and from then the match became more disjointed. Ottawa continued to hold the upper hand, testing Vaikla several more times with dangerous chances and four shots on target, but the Eddies’ shot-stopper was up to the challenge. At the other end of the pitch, Azriel Gonzalez made a decent effort on two occasions with shots from distance, hoping Ottawa ‘keeper Nathan Ingham might spill them because of the weather conditions, but the score nonetheless remained knotted at zero.
The second half — slightly delayed due to lightning — unfolded similarly to the first, though the rain had mercifully abated by the time the teams emerged from the locker rooms. The Eddies progressed forward more in the early staves, with one Wesley Timoteo free-kick coming very close to the top corner and requiring a very good save by Ingham.
Ottawa continued to pour on the attacking play, though, and eventually their breakthrough did come. With about 20 minutes left to play, Abdou Sissoko won a ball in midfield and immediately played it forward to Ballou Tabla, who ran onto the pass behind the Eddies’ backline. He managed to leave a defender behind with a good cut into the box, and he lifted a shot at the near post into the back of the net to make it 1-0 in the 70th minute.
Less than five minutes later, it was Tabla who doubled the hosts’ lead. Keven Alemán, fresh off the bench, embarked on a mazy run through midfield to enter the attacking third, and he spotted Tabla lurking behind the Eddies’ backline to his left. Alemán fed a through ball to Tabla, who again finished at the near post with a shot that Vaikla got a hand to but couldn’t keep out of the net.
Edmonton boss Alan Koch turned to his bench to try and help his side get back into the game, as Tobias Warschewski and Masta Kacher, among others, came off the bench to try and add some new energy to the attack.
Koch was rewarded for the change in the end; after Warschewski troubled the Ottawa end a few times with chances, he ultimately gave the Eddies a foothold in the game in the 86th minute, as he hit a free-kick from well outside the box that got around the wall and beat Ingham to find the back of the net, cutting Ottawa’s lead to just one.
Ottawa did, however, manage to see out the rest of the match without conceding again, as they secured the 2-1 result. With the three points, Atleti jumped ahead of Cavalry FC to third in the standings, now level with second-place Pacific on 32 points.
70′ — Ballou Tabla (Atlético Ottawa)
74′ — Ballou Tabla (Atlético Ottawa)
86′ — Tobias Warschewski (FC Edmonton)
62′ — Yellow: Mamadi Camara (FC Edmonton)
89′ — Yellow: Macdonald Niba (Atlético Ottawa)
89′ — Yellow: Owen Antoniuk (Atlético Ottawa)
90+2′ — Yellow: Terique Mohammed (FC Edmonton)