Pacific FC weathered an early storm to stun Atlético Ottawa 1-0 at TD Place Stadium. Despite having the vast majority of the chances over the course of 90 minutes, Ottawa will be left to rue missed opportunities. Pacific, meanwhile, took theirs as Alejandro Diaz scored the lone goal of the match.
The true difference in the match, however, was the play of Pacific goalkeeper Callum Irving. He made 10 saves, several of them spectacular.
Atléti welcomed Pacific to the nation’s capital with a flurry of early chances. Ballou Tabla proved a handful in the opening moments, winning a pair of corners inside the opening 10 minutes, the first of which found the head of returning captain Drew Beckie, who directed it goalward but could not trouble Irving.
Irving was forced to make a much more difficult stop in the 18th minute when Tabla once again broke down the wing and slipped the ball through to Max Tissot. The Pacific keeper parried away his strike well. Minutes later, Beckie had yet another header that Irving caught and held.
Tabla took matters into his own hands in the 21st minute, breaking away from Jordan Haynes down the right flank. Again, however, Irving was equal to his curling strike.
Irving was even responsible for Pacific’s first chance of the match. His long goal kick in the 34th connected with Marco Bustos near the Ottawa box. Bustos nutmegged his defender, but his cross did not connect with any teammates.
Ottawa ended the opening half with eight shot attempts, five of which were on target. Six of those came inside the box, but the match remained scoreless heading into half-time.
Pacific settled proceedings down a little bit to start the second half and nearly found the opener in the 55th minute. Kunle Dada-Luke cut past Tissot into the Ottawa box, and his low-driven close was deflected precariously in behind by Ottawa midfielder Ben McKendry.
Irving then had Tabla’s number again a few minutes later. Tissot’s backheel played Tabla into space down the left-wing. While the Ottawa attacker had the patience to create the opening for a shot, he still couldn’t foil Irving.
It was Pacific who finally broke the deadlock in the 72nd minute, stunning the Ottawa crowd. Manny Aparicio’s strike from distance hit the post to the left of Nate Ingham, and Canadian Premier League’s leading goalscorer, Diaz, was on hand to calmly head the rebound home. It was Diaz’s fourth goal of the year.
Ottawa, believing the goal was offside, was incensed. During the aftermath, Atléti manager Carlos Gonzalez was sent off. His players responded well, however, mounting a number of dangerous attacks and forcing even more heroics from Irving.
Irving got some much-needed help from defender Amer Didic in the 80th minute, as the Pacific centre-back cleared Malcolm Shaw’s curling effort off the line.
In the dying moments of the match, Pacific had a golden opportunity to extend their lead as substitute Gianni Dos Santos broke through on goal. He was denied well by Ingham.
72′ — Alejandro Diaz (Pacific FC)
32′ — Yellow Card: Abdoul Sissoko (Atlético Ottawa)
76′ — Yellow Card: Amer Didic (Pacific FC)