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Canadian Championship Produces a Thriller

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It will certainly go down as one of the most intense championship finals in Canadian futsal history.

 

Coming into the final the story fit all the typical clichés of a major Canadian title match: Toronto vs Montréal, Ontario against Quebec, Anglophone vs Francophone, in addition to being a repeat of last year’s final.

 

It was also chance to avenge last year’s loss versus an opportunity to cement national dominance.

 

Of course, we're talking about Toronto Idolo vs Sporting Montréal.

 

Despite losing last year’s final 6-1, Sporting once again won Quebec’s league title and went undefeated in the group stage, including a decisive 8-4 win over Ontario champions GTA Futsal, and came into Sunday's final as favourites.

 

Idolo on the other hand had yet to display the killer instinct that they had become known for. In the group stage lost 6-5 to Calgary Villains FC and needed some help via a Saskatchewan win to clinch their spot into the final. A big part of that was due to the team having a lack of competitive games this season coupled with the fact that several of their key players were under contract with the Mississauga Metrostars of the MASL up until last week.

 

Before the match kicked off a beautiful tribute, capped by a moment of applause with both clubs arm in arm in a circle, was made at centre court for Bob Tibbo; the beloved futsal builder who passed away in December. Bob was a founding member of Futsal Canada, Canada’s first FIFA Futsal Referee Instructor and Assessor, and one of the most respected people in Canadian futsal history.

 

Sporting opened up as the stronger side with crisp passing and repeatedly pressed Idolo’s goal. They were rewarded in the 10th minute when their leading goal scorer Mitchell Syla tapped in the opening goal after a beautiful run and pass from 17 year old sensation Aylan Khenoussi.

 

Shortly after, Canadian national team star defender Eduardo “Bullets” Jaragui received a yellow after a hard tackle against Khenoussi.

 

Idolo’s leading scorer, Luis Rocha, earned a penalty after a tackle from Berlin Jean Gilles and buried it in the bottom left corner to tie it up 1-1.

 

Each team exchanged valuable goal opportunities but a series of point blank saves by both keepers kept the game even. Sporting’s Adam Ghemari showed why he recently earned his 2nd cap for the Tunisian national futsal side while Toronto's Luigi Caruso displayed why he is part of the Canadian national futsal player pool.

 

The light-footed Khenoussi would break the deadlock in the 19th courtesy of a pass from Syla off the counter and that Montréal went into halftime with a 2-1 lead.

 

Whatever Canadian National Team Assistant Head Coach Lorenzo Redwood said during the break immediately paid dividends as Toronto tied it up at two in the 22nd as Iranian Sina Khandan made a nice cut to the inside of the court and laced home a left footed strike into the bottom right corner. Khandan came to Canada one year ago after playing in the highly regarded Iranian Futsal League as well as being a previous winner of the Azerbaijan Futsal League.

 

Idolo would take the seconds later after when a seemingly harmless shot from 15m out by Rocha deflected off the leg of Jean-Gilles and into the net.

 

Despite a strong first half performance in goal from Ghemari, Sporting coach Marouane Lamnidi subbed off Ghemari at half for the usually solid Alex Fuentes. After the two goals, Fuentes was subbed off and received a red card for kicking a water bottle.

 

Toronto would double up when a great pass along the left sideline from last year’s golden boot winner Damien Graham to Adrian Perez who smashed a left footed rocket into the far side corner.

 

Still within the opening five minutes of the half, Montréal were handed a gift shortly after when a miscommunication between Perez and Jaragui in Toronto’s half gave Jean Gilles a breakaway and he would make no mistake on it to cut the deficit down to one.

 

The atmosphere at the Queen’s ARC gym was nothing short of raucous with supporters from both Toronto and Montréal bringing the noise with air horns, a vibrant display of towels and flags, and even one fan jumping from his seat in a luchador wrestling mask.

 

Montréal got into foul trouble early on and fouled out with more than 10 minutes left in the half and had to adapt their defensive pressure or risk giving Toronto the dreaded 10m spot kick.

 

Tasked with calming Sporting was their 19 year old captain Mohamed Farsi who was the most dominant player in the match as he pulled the strings of Montréal’s play and constantly created key scoring opportunities. He clearly established himself as one of Canada's brightest futsal stars for years to come.

 

Farsi’s excellent play paid off with an explosive run from his half and laid a perfect pass across the court to Abdel “LK” Nboucha who struck it down low past Caruso to tie the game up 4-4.

 

Farsi almost put Montréal back in the lead when he blasted a missile that ricocheted off the crossbar and appeared to cross the goal line before bouncing out but play continued.

 

Sporting then had another magnificent chance to go back up when Nboucha made a phenomenal play through the centre of the court and laid off to a wide open Syla who was stopped stone cold by Caruso.

 

With 29 seconds left in regulation Toronto were given a glorious opportunity to win the game when Montréal’s Samir Morsli needlessly fouled Graham which resulted in a 10m kick.

 

The steely veteran Jaragui would step up to take it for Toronto but struck it wide left of the goal, putting the game into extra time.

 

Nboucha really turned on the heat on and would have scored a brilliant goal in the top corner had it not been for yet another remarkable save by Caruso.

 

The final two minutes of the second extra half would be a thriller as Canadian International Marco Rodriguez would turn and score from the top of the goal area to give Toronto a 5-4 lead.

 

In the final minute of play Farsi fed a smooth pass to Jean Gilles who deftly tapped it to Nboucha who scored the crucial tying goal and take it penalties.

 

PENALTIES

 

SM1: In PK’s it would be Jean Gilles opening for Sporting but he hit it wide left of the net.

 

TI1: Rodriguez nailed his shot right down the middle to score for Idolo.

 

SM2: Syla would calmly strike low right for Sporting.

 

TI2: Khandan would run up and perfectly fired his shot into the top right corner.

 

SM3: Nboucha kept Sporting’s hopes alive with a nice goal low right.

 

TI3: Rocha with an opportunity to win the championship sniped it up high and down the middle to clinch the title.

 

NOTES

 

1. Toronto Idolo become the first team in Canadian history to win back to back championships and will now represent Canada at the CONCACAF Futsal Club Championships later this year in Central America.

 

2. Although many players gave strong efforts the man of the match had to go to Mohamed Farsi after such an outstanding performance.

 

3. Already holding the record for most Canadian titles, Toronto Head Coach Lorenzo Redwood extends his championship tally to three.

 

 

4. The golden boot went to Luis Rocha who finished with an impressive 11 goals from 4 games.