If FC Edmonton is to overturn a two-goal deficit to York9 in the second leg of their Canadian Championship round-two qualifier, they can take inspiration from Liverpool and Tottenham.
Both staged massive rallies against Barcelona and Ajax, respectively, in the semifinals of the UEFA Champions League.
“I think the majority of guys here have played in games where they’ve been down a couple of goals and came back,” said FCE striker Tomi Ameobi. “Especially on Cup nights. They’re special. We’ve obviously watched those (Champions League) games, and we’ve seen teams come back at the highest level. That will be our approach come Wednesday.”
The Eddies will be at home after giving up three goals on corners and losing the first leg at York by a 3-1 count. While the Nine Stripes have a massive advantage, the Eddies gave themselves a ray of hope in the second half. After being down 3-0, coach Jeff Paulus brought in Ameobi and midfielder James Marcelin, who started the game on the bench. Marcelin was placed in a more advanced position than we’ve seen in the past, and Ameobi caused problems in the Y9 penalty area. The constant pressure yielded an Oumar Diouck goal, and, right before the final whistle was blown, a ball went off Ameobi’s chest and into the net, but it was waved off; referee Serge Topalian ruled Ameobi had pushed York9 goalkeeper Nathan Ingham.
“He said that I obstructed the keeper when I jumped,” said Ameobi. “But the video doesn’t lie. Not much else we can say about that.”
“It was never a foul, Tomi’s eyes were on the ball the entire time,” said Paulus. “You have to respect the refs, they have a split-second snapshot of what is going on. I totally respect the job they do… But all you had to do was look at Nathan Ingham on the goal. He knew that it was a mistake. He never once threw his hands up, he never once pointed to Tomi. He never thought it was a foul.”
But Paulus admitted that it’s hard to focus on the call when his team was guilty of conceding on three corner kicks that York9 made look easy to convert.
“If we don’t come home and turn this around, this on FC Edmonton for not defending set pieces.”
Paulus said the team will be spending a lot of time this week working on defending corners and free kicks. But he also takes the blame for starting and Marcelin and Ameobi on the bench. Both players are over six feet tall and would have offered a lot of help on those York9 corners had they been on the field at the time. When they did come in, though, the game changed. And maybe, by causing chaos in the box, by pushing Marcelin forward, the Eddies have found something that might not only help on Wednesday, but in league play going forward.
“What we saw in the second half was an urgency in the players,” said Paulus. “We knew we have a big target man in Tomi and the key to our game was keeping Tomi high. I’ve had this big focus on wanting to play possession football out of the back, and I’ve put Tomi in the position where he’s probably got to come back and get the ball all the time. We changed that mentality… I said I want you to stay as deep as you possibly can and I don’t want you coming back at all for the ball. I want you to be our target man. He’s very good with his back to goal, as we all saw. So that mindset is now to get the ball forward a bit quicker. We don’t need to be that silky team at the moment. We need to get a result. Getting James going forward and fighting for the ball is also something we can utilize.”