The Canadian Premier League’s online community came together on Friday night for Week 1 of the eCPL Home to Play competition.
All eight clubs, each represented by both a real-life footballer and a competitive gamer, took their talents to the virtual pitch for a knockout tournament.
The tournament, which streamed live across the CPL’s virtual platforms (Twitch, YouTube, and Facebook), saw professional footballers butt heads online, with some of the top gamers from across Canada also squaring off. The clubs competed in two-legged ties through quarter-finals, semifinals, and a final, with a place in April 24’s championship final on the line for the Week 1 winner.
Ultimately, Atlético Ottawa came out on top, with pro gamer Agitpower’s 3-0 first-leg lead proving too much for HFX’s Christian Oxner to handle in Leg 2 of the final — despite a valiant effort.
Leg 1 – Forge FC (Kwame Awuah) 1-7 Valour FC (Dylan Carreiro)
The tournament kicked off with Awuah commandeering Belgium, while Carreiro elected to play as France. With Awuah starting on the front foot, sending cross after cross into the box early on, Carreiro weathered the storm and held him off, to enter halftime scoreless.
It was Forge’s Awuah who opened the scoring, smashing home with Romelu Lukaku early in the first half. It was then, though, that Carreiro turned it on. He equalized with Wissam Ben Yedder in the 56th minute, and proceeded to smash another six goals past Awuah’s Belgian side (including four from Ousmane Dembélé), leaving Forge in a major hole heading into Leg 2.
Leg 2 – Forge FC (Nawid Noorzai/GoalMachine) 2-2 Valour FC (Dylan Gagne/Dillaphant)
With the tie all but decided in Leg 1 by the CPLers, Valour FC’s pro gamer Dillaphant needed just to hold down the fort. Despite a valiant effort from Forge representative GoalMachine in the early stages of the game, Valour held firm and played to a 2-2 draw, sending the Winnipeg club into the semifinals.
Final: Forge FC 3-9 Valour FC
Game 2: Atlético Ottawa vs. Cavalry FC
Leg 1 – Atlético Ottawa (Malyk Hamilton) 5-1 Cavalry FC (Nikolas Giantsopoulos) (not streamed)
Leg 2 – Atlético Ottawa (Agit Katilmis/Fist_Agitpower) 12-0 Cavalry FC (Owen Thomas/Stopde) (not streamed)
The CPL’s newcomers kicked off their first-ever competition with a resounding win against Cavalry. It seems the Calgary-based club’s on-field success in 2019 didn’t quite translate to the virtual world, as Atlético Ottawa’s tandem of Malyk Hamilton and Agitpower completely dominated their opponents with a pair of blowout victories.
Final: Atlético Ottawa 17-1 Cavalry FC
Game 3: York9 FC vs. FC Edmonton
Leg 1 – York9 FC (Max Ferrari) 1-2 FC Edmonton (Erik Zetterberg) (not streamed)
Leg 2 – York9 FC (Feroze Ali/feroze17) 1-5 FC Edmonton (Gabriel Cabrera/SibWolf) (not streamed)
Although this tie wasn’t streamed on the eCPL channel, the Eddies prevailed over the Nine Stripes (perhaps inflicting some level of revenge after York9 knocked them out of last year’s Canadian Championship?).
FC Edmonton’s new central midfielder Erik Zetterberg proved his worth already, taking down the youngest member of York9, Max Ferrari.
Leg 1 – HFX Wanderers FC (Christian Oxner) 3-2 Pacific FC (Marco Bustos)
This one got off to a fast start, with Pacific FC’s Marco Bustos (playing as Argentina) opening the scoring in the ninth minute with Lautaro Martinez off a short corner kick. Oxner (playing as Belgium) levelled things in the 11th, though, with an Eden Hazard strike.
Bustos provided perhaps the highlight of Week 1’s first round in the 19th minute, as he picked out the top corner with a free kick, by means of the venerable Lionel Messi:
It ultimately wasn’t Bustos’ day, though, as Oxner battled back in the second half. He tied things at two in the 66th with Hazard again, striking from a crazy angle near the goal line. Finally, on the edge of full time, Dries Mertens put HFX Wanderers in front, finishing a well-worked effort into the six-yard box.
Leg 2 – HFX Wanderers FC (Pedram Malakiam/WeirdGuyFromWork) 2-2 Pacific FC (Erfan Hosseini/Skills_Shack) (a.e.t.)
With everything to play for in Leg 2, the FIFA pros met for a virtual Coastal Clash. Hosseini, representing Pacific, drew the clubs level in the first half, putting the entire tie up in the air.
Malakiam, though, put Halifax back in front, with a Sergio Ramos goal in the 44th minute. He held firm for most of the second half, and he and Oxner looked set to sail into the semifinals — until the very last minute.
Just as the clock dipped into stoppage time, Hosseini’s side worked it into the box, only for Malakiam to slide in with an errant foul.
Cristiano Ronaldo stepped up to the spot for Pacific FC (that’s a pretty strange one to write), and buried it to send the pro players to a nail-biting golden goal extra time.
It was not to be for Pacific, though. Just five minutes into the extra frame, Malakiam used Dutch legend Johan Cruyff to cut through the defence and win it for HFX.
Final: HFX Wanderers 5-4 Pacific FC (a.e.t.)
Semifinal 1: Valour FC vs. Atlético Ottawa
Leg 1 – Valour FC (Dylan Gagne/Dillaphant) 0-2 Atlético Ottawa (Agit Katilmis/Fist_Agitpower)
With the pros kicking off first, Ottawa continued to cruise in Leg 1. Wissam Ben Yedder was the hero for Katilmis and Atlético Ottawa, scoring twice in the second half with extremely similar goals — short passes into a screamer from the top of the box.
eCPL hosts ChuBoi and Mike Labelle anointed Ben Yedder one of the best players out there in FIFA Ultimate Team, and they turned out to be right.
Leg 2 – Valour FC (Dylan Carreiro) 1-3 Atlético Ottawa (Malyk Hamilton)
In his first appearance on stream, Hamilton made a strong first impression with a 19th minute goal. All he needed was Kylian Mbappé, whose pace carried him past the defence into a cool finish.
With both CPLers electing to play as France, they proved a fairly even match through the first half. Still, it was Hamilton who pressed forward. He added a second goal early in the second frame via Ousmane Dembélé.
Carreiro pulled a goal back in the second half, threading incisive passes through the box to put his striker alone in front of the net, but Hamilton put it to bed with another lethal Dembélé screamer.
With that, Valour bowed out, as the CPL’s newcomers sailed comfortably into the Week 1 final.
Leg 1 – FC Edmonton (Gabriel Cabrera/SibWolf) 2-1 HFX Wanderers FC (Pedram Malakiam/WeirdGuyFromWork)
The Eddies made an impressive stream debut, with SibWolf taking down Halifax representative Malakiam — an upset, perhaps, according to stream host ChuBoi.
HFX did take an early lead, as Malakiam leaned on Johan Cruyff again to put himself in front with a long-distance screamer in the 14th minute.
Cabrera battled back for Edmonton, though, with a goal from Portuguese legend Eusébio in the 24th. After a hard-fought middle section of the match, he put FCE in front as he used George Best to cut a pass into the path of Eusébio for the match winner, caroming in off the post.
Leg 2 – FC Edmonton (Erik Zetterberg) 1-7 HFX Wanderers FC (Christian Oxner)
With the Wanderers entering Leg 2 down a goal, Christian Oxner pulled out all the stops. FCE’s Zetterberg, playing as France, introduced himself to CPL fans quickly, scoring an incredible chip from Kylian Mbappé in the 27th minute.
From there, though, it was all Oxner. The real-life goalkeeper pulled one back with Brazil’s Neymar, and followed up on the brink of halftime with powerful strike by Fabinho to put things all square at three with just one half of the four total remaining.
Oxner dominated the latter frame for HFX, scoring a couple particularly impressive strikes with Roberto Firmino en route to a five-goal second half, sealed by a cheeky chip to finish things (perhaps in retribution for Zetterberg’s chip to open the scoring).
With that, the Wanderers — after completing a valiant comeback — sailed right through to the Week 1 final, hoping to knock off Atlético Ottawa for the first title.
Final: FC Edmonton 3-8 HFX Wanderers FC
Final: HFX Wanderers FC vs. Atlético Ottawa
Leg 1: HFX Wanderers FC (Pedram Malakiam/WeirdGuyFromWork) 0-3 Atlético Ottawa (Agit Katilmis/Fist_Agitpower)
Looking for a title before they’ve played a match on the pitch, Atlético Ottawa started strong in Leg 1 of the final. When Malakiam made an early mistake with his goalkeeper, Katilmis jumped on the loose ball in the box and drew first blood with N’Golo Kanté.
Ottawa continued to pile on the lead, with a power strike from Neymar putting Katilmis ahead before halftime, and an open-goal finish by Kylian Mbappé cleaning up an attack early in the second frame.
It seemed Ped had let Halifax down in Leg 1 of the final, unable to capitalize on his chances as Atlético Ottawa took a sizeable advantage into the final showdown.
Leg 2: HFX Wanderers FC (Christian Oxner) 2-3 Atlético Ottawa (Malyk Hamilton)
With his side deep in a hole, Oxner’s Brazil squad took on Hamilton (playing as France again). He made an early statement, using some of Neymar’s slick moves in the box to fire an 11th-minute marker past the near post.
Hamilton answered in short order, though, with Kylian Mbappé restoring the three-goal lead in the 13th minute. It was Oxner, though, who had the last laugh before halftime, with a back-post goal from Willian making it 2-1 for the game, but 4-2 for Ottawa on aggregate.
Oxner’s furious press threatened time after time in the second half, but Hamilton turned aside each of his foe’s ventures into his penalty area. Indeed, it was Hamilton who scored next, with a beautiful Benjamin Pavard chip from long distance sealing the deal in the 80th minute — with a final dagger from Mbappé at the death cancelling out Oxner’s late goal.
Final: HFX Wanderers FC 2-6 Atlético Ottawa
With that, the CPL newcomers booked their spot in April 24’s championship round. Be sure to tune in next Friday, April 10, to see which club will join them.
For more information on the eCPL Home to Play tournament, visit ecpl.gg.