Toronto Reds beat Montreal 4-0 to reach Canadian Championship final

TORONTO – There will be a new Canadian Champion crowned this year.

Ayo Akinola scored twice, while Jesus Jimenez and Alejandro Pozuelo also scored in Toronto FC’s 4-0 win over CF Montreal at BMO Field on Wednesday, advancing to the final of the 2022 Canadian Championship, eliminating the champions of 2021.

“We came out on the front foot,” Akinola said. “We attacked them and pressured them and we didn’t want to give them a chance to breathe.”

Akinola opened the scoring in the 40th minute for the reds, when he was finishing a three-touch play for the goal started by Jimenez. The striker found Luca Petrasso on the left side. Petrasso passed the ball to Akinola, who easily beat Montreal goalkeeper James Pantemis by a 1-0 lead.

TFC had several opportunities before Akinola’s first goal.

Jayden Nelson nearly opened the scoring for Toronto FC in the first minute when he got past the Montreal defense and fired his right foot from outside the box to the far post. He also had a shot at the end of the first half.

Montreal’s best chance to score in the first half came in the 20th minute when Montreal captain Samuel Piette’s chance from inside the area was blocked by a TFC defender just in front of goal.

Toronto FC led the shots 7-2 in the first half, although Montreal had 57% of possession.

“We had a good first half,” CF Montreal coach Wilfried Nancy said of his team’s game. “They scored their goal, but before that we were doing really well.”

In the second half, Montreal made two substitutions to put up an offensive formation, but were caught on the wrong side of a free kick as they pressed for an equaliser. Pozuelo took the ball to the field and found Akinola, whose shot from the middle of the area went off the post and went into the goal in the 54th minute.

CF Montreal forward Romell Kyoto (30) controls the ball near the touchline as Toronto FC defender Shane O'Neill (27) chases it during the Voyageurs Cup first half semi-final in Toronto on Wednesday, June 22 of 2022.

Akinola is finding his form after missing nearly a year with an anterior cruciate ligament injury in his knee. The Canadian forward admitted it has been a challenge to find his game since he returned in early May and was not entirely satisfied with his goal against Montreal despite his two-goal display.

“The goals gave me a confidence boost, but if I’m being realistic, I thought that overall, how the game went, I didn’t do a good job,” Akinola said. “I just gave it too much, I didn’t connect, I didn’t get too involved in the play, so that’s on my part. But when I had my chances, I buried them.”

Montreal had a shot on goal five minutes after Akinola’s second goal. Substitute Kei Kamara, a second-half substitute, fired from inside the area, which was deflected by Toronto FC goalkeeper Quentin Westberg.

Jimenez scored in the 75th minute as Toronto FC’s corner opportunity bounced off Pantemis, leaving an easy touch for the TFC forward.

Pozuelo scored three minutes later to make it 4-0 TFC as he went into the net with ease and kicked for Pantemis.

“It’s probably at rock bottom,” Montreal defender Alistair Johnson said after the game. “You lose a game to your local rivals 4-0 in a game where you’re not sure the score line reflects that, but at the same time they put four against us and we didn’t score any against them. It wasn’t good enough for us.”

Toronto FC is one victory away from claiming a ninth Voyageurs Cup title. They won their eighth title earlier this month by winning the 2020 Canadian Championship, which was delayed by two years. For a team trying to rebuild after a difficult 2021 MLS season, the Reds have found solace in the Canadian Championship, despite it being a challenging season in league play.

They are 13th in the Eastern Conference of the MLS standings with a 4-8-3 record.

“We all know the work to become a better team is underway,” said TFC coach Bob Bradley. “In the midst of it all, when you can have a night where at the end there’s a trophy and everyone is excited, yeah, that’s important.”

TFC will play Vancouver Whitecaps in the final. The Caps defeated Canadian Premier League team York United FC 2-1 in Vancouver on Wednesday night. The championship is scheduled to take place in July.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published on June 22, 2022

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