MONTREAL, QC – The Montreal Impact took a step toward the Eastern Conference Championship, this Sunday at Stade Saputo, defeating the New York Red Bulls by a 1-0 scoreline in the home leg of its Conference Semifinal.
Lifted by a spectacular Matteo Mancosu goal, the Bleu-blanc-noir stopped the Red Bulls’ 20-game unbeaten streak in all competitions and did not concede an away goal. The Impact is thus in a good position ahead of the return leg of this home-and-away series, on Sunday, November 6 at Red Bull Arena in Harrison, New Jersey. The winner of the Impact-Red Bulls matchup will then face off against either New York City FC or Toronto FC in the Eastern Conference Championship starting on Tuesday, November 22 at 8pm.
“Credit to my staff and to my players, who put on an excellent performance,” said Impact head coach Mauro Biello. “Considering the emotions and the work put in on Thursday in D.C., coming back here in front of our fans and winning this game against one of the favourites was fantastic. We’ll keep growing together and prepare for next Sunday.”
Bleu-blanc-noir shows courage and sharpness
The Red Bulls created the first chance of the game, three minutes in. A long ball fell for Bradley Wright-Phillips, alone in front of goalkeeper Evan Bush. Wright-Phillips tried to chip Bush, but the ‘keeper raised his arms to recover the ball just inside his penalty area.
The Impact produced two clear cut chances in the first half. First, in the 10th minute, a fine free-kick combination between Patrice Bernier, Marco Donadel and Laurent Ciman almost yielded a goal, but ‘keeper Luis Robles grabbed the ball to his left.
Then, in the 44th minute, Nacho Piatti put in extra effort to reach a long diagonal ball from Hassoun Camara and brush off the challenge of Chris Duvall. Piatti crossed at the far post for Matteo Mancosu, whose header agonizingly missed to Robles’ right.
Back from the break, Felipe won a generous free kick down the middle, close to the area. The Brazilian took the attempt himself and hit the crossbar.
The Bleu-blanc-noir got on the scoresheet in the 61st minute after a Felipe giveaway. From behind the centre line, Donadel played Mancosu through behind the New York backline. Despite Aurélien Collin’s coverage, Mancosu smashed the ball home on the half-volley, giving no chance to Robles. The Montreal forward scored his third goal in these playoffs off of Donadel’s second assist.
“We’re going to New York with an advantage,” said Matteo Mancosu. “Our work isn’t done yet. We loved playing this game in front of our fans, which give us such great emotions and help us so much. We’re really pleased with this first-leg win.”
Bush once again came up strong in the 67th minute, as Mike Grella squared the ball for an unmarked Sacha Kljestan in the area. The Montreal ‘keeper slid to his right, denying Kljestan, and Donadel deflected another Felipe shot behind for a corner.
Under pressure from the tenacious Red Bulls, the Impact enjoyed good moments on transition. Piatti nearly made it 2-0 after another fine Camara feed, but his fierce left-footed strike flew just over the top left corner of Robles’ goal.
“The team played at full speed,” said team captain Patrice Bernier. “We may have played on Thursday, but when you’ve got the willpower, you can fight through fatigue. The Red Bulls pushed on to tire us, but we played smartly.”
New York’s tough afternoon ended with two crucial plays in stoppage time. After Bush made a huge save on Omer Damari, an 82nd-minute sub, and saw Wright-Phillips miss his attempt on the rebound, Damari made a vicious studs-up tackle on Calum Mallace, who had just kept the ball in play near the Montreal bench. Referee Robert Sibiga promptly produced a red card for Damari, who will be suspended for the return leg.
The Impact will play the second leg of this Eastern Conference Semifinal series against New York next Sunday, November 6, at Red Bull Arena in Harrison, New Jersey (time and broadcast schedule TBC).
MTL – GK-Evan Bush; D-Hassoun Camara, Víctor Cabrera, Laurent Ciman, Ambroise Oyongo; M-Dominic Oduro (Johan Venegas 74′), Hernán Bernardello (Calum Mallace 69′), Marco Donadel, Patrice Bernier (Harry Shipp 90’+1′), Ignacio Piatti; F-Matteo Mancosu
Subs not used – GK-Eric Kronberg; D-Donny Toia, Wandrille Lefèvre; F-Anthony Jackson-Hamel
NY – GK-Luis Robles; D-Chris Duvall, Damien Perrinelle, Aurélien Collin, Kemar Lawrence (Sal Zizzo 90’+1′); M-Alex Muyl (Omer Damari 82′), Felipe, Dax McCarty, Sacha Kljestan, Mike Grella (Gonzalo Verón 73′); F-Bradley Wright-Phillips
Subs not used – GK-Kyle Reynish; D-Aaron Long; M-Sean Davis, Shaun Wright-Phillips
MTL – Mancosu (Donadel) 61′
NY – Felipe 13′
NY – Camara 13′