Final Score: HFX Wanderers 0-2 Atlético Ottawa
Goalscorers: Bassett 70′, Acosta 87′
Game of the 2022 season: 48
CPL match: 298
Match in a minute or less
Atlético Ottawa became just the fourth team in league history to pick up a win in Halifax, 2-0 over the Wanderers. Only Forge has picked up three points at Wanderers Ground this year, while Cavalry and York United are the only other CPL teams that have won in Nova Scotia in the league’s history.
Ollie Bassett opened the scoring on a free kick that resulted from Samuel Salter being sent off for Halifax after receiving a second yellow card. With with home side pressing for an equalizer late, Miguel Acosta picked up an insurance marker for Ottawa late.
The win puts Ottawa up into second in the league, for the time being, a position they will hope to consolidate when they visit Forge on Sunday.
Patience once again the recipe for success for Atlético Ottawa on the road
There is no question that Altético Ottawa’s preferred style of play lends itself well to playing away from home. The road allows them to sit back and absorb pressure while the impetus shifts to their opponent to dictate the tempo of the match in their home stadium.
But the patience and commitment to Carlos González’s low block and compact style continues to be as impressive as it is effective. They had only 40 percent of the ball in this match despite being a man up for the final 20 minutes.
Ottawa now has the best points per game in the league away from home, having picked up 11 points in six road matches.
“We knew that the game was going to be tough, that there were moments that were going to be tough moments that we would have to be able to suffer without the ball,” said Gonzaléz, “I feel that in the first half, in the first 15 minutes with the high pressure that we weren’t capable to find the spaces and be comfortable with the ball, but we started to be better [after that]”.
That patience eventually tends to pay off, as they inevitably find moments to exploit their opposition the longer it takes the home side to break them down and the more they can frustrate them, and look for a mistake or opening. In all three road wins for Ottawa this season, the winning goal has come in the 70th minute or later.
“We trust our defenders and our midfielders and our forward players to kind of stay in a good shape,” said Bassett. “We are comfortable doing that. I think sometimes it can be frustrating as players when you are not getting on the ball as much as you’d like but I think then it is just about taking your chances when they come and I think today we probably had three or four shots on target and we were able to put two away so I think as far as away performances go it was one of the best we’ve had this season.”
Ottawa actually only had two official shots on target tonight, and they scored on both of them. They did get a bit fortuitous as they were able to double up the misfortune of Halifax by scoring on a free kick directly after the home side went down to 10 men and didn’t have time to adjust tactically. But they don’t get opportunities like that if they aren’t patient.
Ottawa plan of attack looks like bypass Halifax midfield, exploit the flanks
Coming into this match, Ottawa knew that Halifax’s midfield was going to play a major factor in the game. With how good they are defensively, and at quickly moving the ball up the pitch when they win it back, González preferred to avoid this part of the pitch if possible when Atleti had the ball.
“The idea was to put the ball fast in the flanks,” said González after the match, “you know, where the spaces were and try to limit the situations in which the ball goes through the inside of the field. This was one of the parts of the plan…we knew that the weakness of Halifax was there so we went there.”
The numbers show that Ottawa followed their coach’s directive, as a very balanced attack down both wings saw only 18.4 per cent of their attacks go through the middle of the park. At the same time, they were able to limit Halifax’s ability to play through the middle of the park as well with only 20.1 per cent of the Wanderers’ attacks coming through that part of the pitch.
The strategy, again, took some patience as Halifax did well to defend their flanks and limit the opportunities that Ottawa had out wide. Eventually, however, a ball over the top to Ballou Tabla on the wide left forced the foul from Salter that saw him sent off, and resulted in the free-kick on which Bassett scored.
They were again able to exploit the flanks in the final minutes, as Acosta intercepted a pass out of the back in the midfield and then stormed forward down the right before slotting the ball past Oxner.
Attacking Halifax’s young fullbacks has been a bit of a trend for teams this season, especially as both are often bombing forward up the pitch leaving gaps in behind as they did again today. But to be fair to them they were able to recover well and mostly stopped Ottawa from having much joy out wide. Hart doesn’t plan to change his strategy in this area any time soon.
“We are not going to drop into a shell and just try to defend because you are going to have the same problems,” said Halifax manager Stephen Hart after the match, “the only thing is they will probably be closer to your penalty area.”
Despite the loss, Hart happy with performance
Prior to picking up the red card, and even largely afterwards, Halifax carried the play in this match. They outshot the visitors 14-9, had 23 touches inside the Ottawa box and 10 shot attempts inside the box. They also controlled possession and had far more of the ball in the final third.
It didn’t result in any points, and Halifax are still looking for their first back-to-back wins of the season, but Hart was mostly left impressed by what his players were able to do against a very good Ottawa side tonight.
“I can’t fault my players today, I thought they were fantastic,” said Hart. “I thought we were never uncomfortable in the game, I thought that we were doing enough to get the result. It is unfortunate that the goal scored on the free kick for the red card. We didn’t get a chance to adjust but even with 10-men we pushed the game forward and tried to get the equalizer. I cannot fault the players today at all.”
It was a match that certainly could have gone either way, as minutes before his red card and Ottawa’s goal Salter had a very good chance to put Halifax ahead but his shot found the outside of the net.
“I think today is a good example of how fine the margins are in this league, and in this game especially,” said Jérémy Gagnon-Laparé. “We just have to regroup now, he have a few days to rest before our next game and just keep pressing on because everyone is doing the right things in training and the games we are just missing those small details.”
CanPL.ca Player of the Match
Ollie Bassett, Atlético Ottawa
Bassett was back to doing what he does best. Aside from scoring, he was the Ottawa player on the ball the most, pulling the strings in attack with a chance created, three crosses and 23 passes into the final third.
HFX Wanderers have a nice rest as they don’t play again until July 10 when they travel to Winnipeg to take on a Valour team who has won two straight matches (4:00 p.m. AT, 3:00 p.m. ET). Atlético, meanwhile, continues their road trip as they head to Tim Hortons Field in Hamilton in search of a first-ever club victory against Forge FC (4:00 p.m. ET).
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