HIGHLIGHTS: HFX equalizes twice, Ottawa takes 1st-leg CanChamp lead

HALIFAX – HFX Wanderers FC have a hill to climb in Leg 2 of their Canadian Championship tie, as they fell 3-2 at home on Wednesday night to the USL’s Ottawa Fury FC in a back-and-forth east coast thriller. Despite equalizing twice, HFX now has a one-goal deficit to make up, plus three away goals conceded.

The visiting Fury seized control from the off, playing on the front foot for much of the first half. They found their first goal not long after the 20-minute mark, as Brazilian midfielder Thiago De Freitas sent a cannon of a shot from over 30 yards out past HFX keeper Jan-Michael Williams.

The Wanderers drew level shortly after, as Akeem Garcia was brought down in the box by Ottawa goalkeeper Callum Irving, setting the scene for Luis Alberto Perea to smash home the penalty in his long-awaited return to the HFX lineup. Almost immediately off the proceeding kickoff, however, De Freitas put Ottawa back ahead with another well-placed strike in the 35th minute.

Coming out of halftime, the Wanderers looked poised to start dictating play. Not long after the break, right-back Andre Bona headed in a long-distance free-kick, but a controversial offside ruling wiped that equalizer off the board. Unfazed by the setback, HFX continued to press for a goal, which they found in the 62nd minute: as Perea muscled his way into the box, a pass across the goalmouth deflected off Ottawa’s Dakota Barnathan for an own goal.

The draw was not to be for the home side, though. Yet again, the Fury came storming back after conceding; substitute Maxim Tissot scored with an incredible off-balance effort from the edge of the box just five minutes after the Wanderers’ goal, and Ottawa saw out the 90 minutes with their slim lead.

The much-anticipated second leg of this CanChamp QR3 tie goes Wednesday, July 24 as the Wanderers pay a visit to TD Place in Ottawa (7:30 p.m. ET, on OneSoccer), where these clubs will fight to book a semi-final date with Toronto FC. Before then, though, HFX has some business to take care of in CPL action, with three league games before they return to the CanChamp. Their next match will be this Saturday, July 13, when they’ll host Cavalry FC at Wanderers Grounds (3:30 p.m. ET, 4:30 p.m. AT, on OneSoccer).

Box Score

23′ – Thiago De Freitas (Ottawa Fury FC)
32′ – Luis Alberto Perea (HFX Wanderers FC)
35′ – Thiago De Freitas (Ottawa Fury FC)
62′ – Dakota Barnathan (OG) (HFX Wanderers FC)
67′ – Maxim Tissot (Ottawa Fury FC)

31′ Yellow – Callum Irving (Ottawa Fury FC)
39′ Yellow – Akeem Garcia (HFX Wanderers FC)
58′ Yellow – Onua Obasi (Ottawa Fury FC)
63′ Yellow – Elliot Simmons (HFX Wanderers FC)
70′ Yellow – Dakota Barnathan (Ottawa Fury FC)
70′ Yellow – Luis Alberto Perea (HFX Wanderers FC)
72′ Yellow – Andre Bona (HFX Wanderers FC)

Three Key Performers

Luis Alberto Perea (HFX Wanderers FC)

Every time Perea returns to the lineup for HFX, he makes an impact. Not only did he score a confident penalty, he also did some excellent work to create the Wanderers’ second goal. He also led his team with 23 passes in the attacking half and demonstrated his ability to both create chances and take them himself.

Thiago De Freitas (Ottawa Fury FC)

This is a no-brainer, as De Freitas scored two wonderful goals that made the difference for his side. Both strikes showed an abundance of confidence and an intelligent nose for the net, as each of his two shots in the whole match found the back of the goal. His two key passes helped create for the Fury as well.

Andre Bona (HFX Wanderers FC)

Disallowed goal aside, Wednesday’s match was an excellent example of Bona’s importance at both ends of the pitch for the Wanderers. He was very strong in the air, winning all three of his aerial duels, and threatening with headed shots on several occasions. Bona was key defensively as well, with three tackles, five clearances, and an interception.