CF Montreal has claimed the second of four semifinal spots in the Canadian Championship by beating Canadian Premier League side HFX Wanderers 3-1 on Wednesday.
Matko Miljevic and Ballou Jean-Yves Tabla, who turned in a Man of the Match performance with two goals, scored for the 2019 champions CF Montreal.
Cory Bent was the lone player on the scoresheet for host Halifax.
While many expected the home side to sit back and defend, Halifax was not so complacent. It pressed Montreal and enjoyed a significant amount of possession in the opposing half.
“The CPL is a young league, but they have a lot of talent. They’re definitely on the right track,” said Montreal head coach Wilfried Nancy. “Off the bat they tried to cause us problems, but I wanted the team to stay calm and that’s exactly what they did.”
Miljevic, who was making his CF Montreal debut, found himself all alone in front of the Halifax net in the 24th minute but lost control of the ball before he could get a shot off. Only three minutes later—against the run of play— Bent punished Montreal’s lack of finish when he hit an absolute screamer into the top left corner.
Montreal then turned up the heat and—in the 35th minute—Miljevic made up for his earlier blunder up by smashing the ball into the top of the net. A scampering run by Zorhan Bassong followed by a clever ball to Miljevic’s foot set up the equalizer.
Montreal sensing the momentum shift, continued its pressing and looked to take its first lead of the game at the 41-minute mark, but Miljevic rattled a shot from outside the box off the post.
The defending champions picked up where they left off in the second half with substitute Lassi Lappalainen forcing an excellent save from Wanderers goalkeeper Kieran Baskett.
It also saw the inclusion of Tabla for the first time since Oct. 25 of last year. The homegrown forward had yet to feature this season due to a nagging groin injury.
“It wasn’t an easy road back these last six or eight months with this injury so I’m really happy to come back and help the team,” said Tabla. “I just want to keep working to help the team and prove to the staff that I can be of value to the team.”
As Montreal continued to press and find the go-ahead goal, Halifax seemed more than content sitting back and shutting the door. There was eventually a breakthrough as CF Montreal captain Samuel Piette’s shot grazed the side of the post.
As the game wound on, Halifax started to come out of its defensive set. That ended up costing the Wanderers as Tabla fired a shot into the top corner from a Zachary Brault-Guillard cross just as full time expired.
“I’m really happy for him. With his injury and all the time away from the action it’s just what he needs,” said Nancy. “He looked inward and had to find ways to improve himself and this is why he earned his spot today.”
He wasn’t done, however as his energy was simply too much for the tired Wanderers defence. Two minutes into added time, Lappalainen played the ball into space and Tabla put the game out of reach as he slotted home his second.
“This wasn’t an easy after game, they pressed us a lot and even stringing a few passes together was difficult,” said Tabla. “(Nancy) knows out strengths going forward so he wanted to solidify the defensive side of the ball to give us the chance to be more creative offensively.”
Montreal will face CPL side Forge FC this weekend for a chance at its second consecutive final.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published September 22, 2021.
Elias Grigoriadis, The Canadian Press