Final Score: CF Montréal 3-0 Forge FC
Goalscorers: Sunusi Ibrahim 14′ 21′ 49′
2022 Canadian Championship
Match in a minute or less
What was billed as a chance at redemption turned into a bit of a rout, as Forge FC was once again eliminated by CF Montréal, this time in a decisive 3-0 manner at Stade Saputo. Sunusi Ibrahim opened the scoring for the defending champions just 14 minutes into the match, the first of his hat-trick on the night.
Forge will be left to wonder why they came out so flat in their biggest game of the season to date, while Montréal moves on to play Toronto FC in the Canadian Championship semi-finals.
Forge struggle against aggressive CF Montréal attack
The injury issues that have plagued Forge’s backline have been well documented this season. A few weeks ago, in a Canadian Premier League game against Atlético Ottawa, they were forced to play without any natural central defenders.
While the situation has improved since then, it still certainly wasn’t ideal, as Bobby Smyrniotis rolled out a backline that included a very good fill-in centre-back, but defensive midfielder by trade, Alex Achinioti-Jönsson, Rezart Rama making just his second start for Forge and Garven Metusala, who had to be replaced through injury in just the 22nd minute.
Usually assured on the ball, the club struggled to build out of the back as Montréal aggressively pressed them in the attacking third and forced some uncharacteristic giveaways from the Hamilton side.
As always, however, defending is done as a team and the problems on the night for Forge certainly extended past the men at the back. Especially in the opening half, Forge was often guilty of leaving far too much space in the middle of the park that Matko Miljevic, in particular, was able to exploit.
“There were big gaps everywhere,” said Forge FC head coach Bobby Smyrniotis, “The issue was the line between our defenders and the midfielders. That first goal, Miljevic gets the ball in the pocket, something that we had talked about, him getting in there. Those are the situations where you have to be better. We’ve got two players in and around the area that the ball is being slotted through.”
The chart below shows the average position of Forge players on the night, and how much of a gap there was between the backline and the midfield. It also demonstrates just how much space Miljevic was afforded during the match, as he is the blue #11 dot in the midfield.
Miljevic dictated the game from that space. He had two assists, four shots, seven chances created and 17 passes into the final third as he surgically picked Forge apart throughout his 73 minutes of action.
From these half-spaces, Montréal dominated Forge, creating five big chances to Forge’s zero, and firing 17 shots at Triston Henry’s net, including seven on target.
‘Worst first half in club history’ costs Forge
When just over a minute into the match, Ibrahim was already behind the Forge backline and forcing a big stop out of Henry, it really should have been a wake-up call for the Hamilton side. Instead, they sleepwalked through most of the first half, making uncharacteristic turnovers, missing defensive assignments and struggling to gain any sort of foothold in the match.
“That was the worst half of football we’ve ever played, in that first half, it comes down to that,” said Smyrniotis. “You can’t come into these matches and not put the energy that is needed. These matches need energy, these matches need a lot of movement, something we talked about and we just didn’t have it to start the match.”
What made the performance even more confounding was just how much experience Forge has in cup ties, against some very good opponents to boot. There was no reason for them to be overwhelmed by the occasion.
“We have played in big matches before,” said Smyrniotis. “We have played in these matches, so it is not the event or whatever is going on. It’s another game that is on a Wednesday night.”
CF Montréal head coach Wilfred Nancy, however, was quick to point out another possible explanation, his side’s strong offensive performance. He highlighted, in particular, how patient Montréal was on the ball in the first half and how many issues that would have caused any visiting side.
“Maybe they played the worst first half because we were really good with the ball,” said Nancy. “They started in a certain way, and after that, they tried to adjust to how we were playing, but they didn’t have a chance to do it. So that’s why for them it was difficult.”
Whatever a culprit, Forge looked a far cry from the side that is normally confident in possession. Rezart Rama and Aboubacar Sissoko, in particular, struggled to keep the ball as Forge built out the back, losing possession 19 and 16 times respectively. Rama, in just his second start for Forge, completed just 75% of his passes.
Former CanPLer Joel Waterman comes back to haunt Forge
While Forge wasn’t able to get revenge against CF Montréal, former Cavalry FC defender Joel Waterman continued to get some personal revenge of his own.
Waterman, who was infamously sent off during the first leg of a 2019 Canadian Championship final loss to Forge FC, has now contributed to two straight eliminations of the Hamilton side.
Too often, Forge failed to adequately put pressure on Waterman, allowing the centre-back to help dictate the game f0r Montréal out of the back. The most obvious example of this came from the game’s opening goal, where Waterman was given all the time in the world to thread a pass through to Miljevic.
Incredible direct-play passing cuts the defence apart, and Sunusi Ibrahim opens the scoring for #CFMTL vs. @ForgeFCHamilton in this 2022 #CanChamp clash ???
The patience from Joel Waterman tho ?
? https://t.co/7JFAUhgjL6 pic.twitter.com/8twZwvj8I7
— OneSoccer (@onesoccer) May 25, 2022
Waterman had a match leading 100 touches and played 92 total passes with a 96 percent accuracy rate. That included 13 into the final third.
He was also solid defensively as well, with five clearances, won back possession eight times, and had a tackle and an interception.
Waterman nearly added even more salt to the wound late in the match when he nearly scored a volley from a corner kick. His clever effort, however, bounced off the pitch and over Henry’s net.
CanPL.ca Player of the Match
Sunusi Ibrahim, CF Montréal
In 61 minutes of action, Sunusi Ibrahim was almost unlucky to not get more than just a hattrick. He had five shots, four of which were on target, as he continually caused issues for the Forge backline.
CF Montréal will move on to the Canadian Championship semi-finals, where they meet rivals Toronto FC. In Canadian Premier League action, Forge FC head to Clarke Stadium for a midweek match against FC Edmonton on Tuesday, May 31 (9:00 p.m. ET/7:00 p.m. MT). Forge’s Canadian Championship duties aren’t done just yet, however, as they face Toronto FC in the 2020 final on June 4 at Tim Horton’s Field at 7:00 p.m. ET.
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