HIGHLIGHTS: Pacific FC vs. Atletico Ottawa (2022 CPL Playoffs, Leg 1)
Atlético Ottawa stuck to its identity and delivered a vintage road performance to pick up a 2-0 victory over Pacific FC at Starlight Stadium on Saturday.
Ballou Tabla opened the scoring in the 79th minute. Zachary Verhoven added another in stoppage time to give Ottawa a massive advantage heading into the second leg of their Canadian Premier League semifinal.
As expected in their first-ever home playoff game, Pacific FC came out flying. They shifted the ball around the pitch quickly, and into some dangerous areas during the match’s opening moments. However, they were unable to convert that into any major chances.
Atleti, as always, remained dangerous on the counter-attack and had their first chance of the match at Brian Wright found himself in behind in the 14th minute after a brilliant ball from Ballou Tabla. He tried to cleverly chip Callum Irving, but the ball ended up well over the net.
The hosts largely did a good job of cutting out transitional opportunities during the first half, however. On multiple occasions, Ottawa players were quickly closed down shortly after Pacific lost the ball in order to make sure they could not quickly move the ball forward.
Ottawa came incredibly close to opening the scoring in the 33rd minute, as Abdoul Sissoko’s strike hit the post to Callum Irving’s right after some more brilliant work from Tabla. Pacific quickly took the ball the other way as Kunle Dada-Luke broke down the right flank, but the end-to-end action ultimately fizzled out without any further chances.
While both teams combined for 11 shot attempts during the opening half, neither keeper was ultimately tested. The sides returned to their respective dressing rooms with the score tied at 0-0.
On the other side of halftime, Pacific hit the woodwork themselves less than a minute into the second half. Marco Bustos turned Tabla, before having his low cross from the byline deflected off the post by Nate Ingham.
Bustos forced yet another save out of Ingham in the 66th minute. The attacker’s swerving strike from the top of the box looked to be headed for the opposite top corner, but for some incredible acrobatics from the Ottawa keeper.
Ottawa was dealt a big blow in the tie in the 75th minute, as defender Diego Espejo received a yellow card, meaning he will miss the club’s home leg next week due to card accumulation. Pacific had a pair of free kicks following that foul, including another rocket from Amer Didic, which could not beat the Ottawa wall.
Against the run of play, as they have done so successfully all season, Ottawa took the lead in the 79th minute. Irving was again caught off his line and after a brilliant through ball from Ollie Bassett, while Tabla deftly chipped over the Pacific keeper.
Pacific quickly put the visitors under pressure once again, only to be denied by Ingham another time. Substitute Jordan Brown’s turning effort in the box was hit low and well, but the Ottawa keeper was equal to the effort.
Ottawa further stunned the hosts in added time. Substitute Zakaria Bahous shifted the ball wide to fellow substitute Zachary Verhoven, whose deflected shot beat Irving to give Atleti a 2-0 advantage.
The tie now returns to the nation’s capital, with Ottawa holding a significant advantage, with a chance to host the CPL final at TD Place Stadium should they advance.
79′ — Ballou Tabla (Atlético Ottawa)
90+5′ — Zachary Verhoven (Atlético Ottawa)
63′ — Ballou Tabla (Atlético Ottawa)
69′ — Sergio Camus (Atlético Ottawa)
73′ — Josh Heard (Pacific FC)
75′ — Diego Espejo (Atlético Ottawa)
77′ — Carl Haworth (Atlético Ottawa)
91′ — Zakaria Bahous (Atlético Ottawa)