Just as it looked like Atlético Ottawa might bank another point at TD Place on Saturday, HFX Wanderers FC took all three as a late winner from Joao Morelli secured a 2-1 victory for the visitors.
Having seen each other several times in recent weeks, both managers sought to make changes to their approach to this game. Stephen Hart deployed his Wanderers team with a slightly different shape, as leading scorer Joao Morelli slotted into a number 10 position behind striker Cory Bent. Kieran Baskett also got the start in goal for HFX, with usual starter Christian Oxner getting the afternoon off. Ottawa, meanwhile, opted for a three-man midfield as Alberto Soto pushed further up the pitch to try and help create opportunities.
The home side started the match on the front foot, with a handful of achingly close chances in the opening 15 minutes. It was the Wanderers, though, who would get on the scoresheet first, as Ottawa’s Tevin Shaw knocked down Morelli in the box. The Brazilian stepped up to take the kick himself and buried it, extending his lead at the top of the CPL’s golden boot table.
MORE COVERAGE: Match Analysis: Atlético Ottawa 1-2 HFX Wanderers FC | Sights & Sounds: Atlético Ottawa 1-2 HFX Wanderers FC
Atlético continued the first half on the front foot, with just under 65% possession in the opening 45, but the final ball eluded them despite some positive movement.
Ottawa coach Mista opted to change things up at halftime, bringing Viti Martinez into the fold in place of Tevin Shaw, and he was almost instantly rewarded. Martinez sent an incredible ball over the top of the Wanderers’ defence to Malcolm Shaw, who brought it down well and finished superbly to make it 1-1 in the 52nd minute.
The hosts continued to look good in the proceeding minutes, with the Wanderers defenders forced to make two desperate goal-line clearances within moments of each other.
Both sides did find a handful of chances through the final half hour, and the intensity of the match picked up with a few very hard tackles setting the tone between two teams that know each other well.
With the clock ticking down, it certainly seemed as though the game would end with the 1-1 scoreline, but the Wanderers had other ideas. Samuel Salter picked up the ball on the left flank and ran it into space, and he sent an excellent low cross to the foot of Morelli — who scored the winner with a powerful strike that Dylon Powley could only deflect into the net.
Having secured three more points, the Wanderers moved up to 21 points — leapfrogging York United (before their Saturday fixture) and putting them just one back of Valour FC for the fourth playoff spot.
17′ — Joao Morelli (HFX Wanderers FC) (PK)
52′ — Malcolm Shaw (Atlético Ottawa)
89′ — Joao Morelli (HFX Wanderers FC)
38′ — Yellow: Tevin Shaw (Atlético Ottawa)
42′ — Yellow: Nyal Higgins (Atlético Ottawa)
67′ — Yellow; Peter Schaale (HFX Wanderers FC)
69′ — Yellow: Joao Morelli (HFX Wanderers FC)