HFX Wanderers FC advanced to face MLS side CF Montreal in the Canadian Championship after dispatching Première ligue de soccer du Québec side AS Blainville 2-1 Tuesday in the tournament’s preliminary round.
Early dominance and its resulting goal left Wanderers fans expecting a breezy Voyageurs Cup early-round result – but that wasn’t always in the cards.
Winger Cory Bent opened the scoring in the first 10 minutes with a smart near-post flick off a Pierre Lamothe corner that snuck past goalkeeper Rayane Yesli. It was an apt reward for the home side that dominated the opening sequences.
The Wanderers showed a three-man backline in attack with coach Stephen Hart opting to add an extra midfielder to start. Blainville, meanwhile, kept a sturdy 5-4-1 in the defense as coach Emmanuel Macagno looked to play pragmatically and gave the Wanderers upwards of 70 per cent possession. Luckily for the PLSQ champions, Bent’s goal was the lone shot on target through the first 45 minutes.
The second half started brightly for the visitors when striker Guy Essome tumbled over Wanderers’ debut ‘keeper Kieran Baskett, forcing a neat summersault and resulting penalty call. Essome converted the spot-kick and gave the Quebec side a lifeline on Blainville’s lone bright attacking moment of the match.
Nerves soon took hold as a series of late tackles led to a coming together from both sides. The Wanderers, with their tails up, played with much more urgency in the attacking third.
Substitute Joao Morelli gave Wanderers Grounds a boost after 60 minutes with a free-kick narrowly missing the net. The crowd slowly grew and aided their team, forcing an error from the PLSQ defense that nearly resulted in an own goal just a few minutes later.
They were rewarded through a similar penalty kick to Blainville when, in the 72nd minute, Akeem Garcia was clipped by ‘keeper Yesli while in on goal. Morelli converted, giving his team the lead on his sixth goal of the season.
Halifax managed to avoid the straight-to-penalties extra time fate, out-running the PLSQ side in the remaining moments to seal the result and move on to play CF Montreal in the quarterfinal round in September.