MONTREAL — After Tuesday’s Canadian Classique was marred by fights in the stands, the commotion on Saturday took place on the pitch.
Winger Lassi Lappalainen and striker Chinonso Offor both scored as CF Montreal beat Toronto FC for the second time this week, winning 2-0 in Major League Soccer play Saturday night, but a scrum broke out between both teams moments after the final whistle blew.
“It’s a rivalry,” said Lappalainen. “I don't know exactly what happened, but there's a lot of emotions.”
With Toronto head coach Bob Bradley and Montreal coach Hernan Losada appearing to argue during their post-game handshake, Toronto winger Richie Laryea stepped in, Montreal striker Romell Quioto followed and both benches cleared. Amid the pushing and shoving, Quioto at one point appeared to throw a punch.
The confrontation generated from an incident in the 56th minute, with Montreal up 1-0, when Losada intervened while Toronto winger Jahkeele Marshall-Rutty took his time giving the ball to Montreal for a throw-in. With Losada coming toward him, Marshall-Rutty threw the ball down the sideline and received a second yellow card to put Toronto down a man.
“My objective is to play fast. We were up 1-0, we’re at home, and we have a chance at a second goal, Mathieu Choiniere was in position to play a quick throw-in, and (Marshall-Rutty) held the ball,” said Losada. “I didn’t touch the player, I stayed in my box.
“It’s too bad he took a second yellow card … but it happened, and it’s not because of me.”
Montreal (5-6-0) won its sixth consecutive match in all competitions after the two Canadian Classique victories this week.
Toronto (2-4-5) has lost three straight and has one win in its last nine games. The Reds are dealing with the longest list of injuries Bradley says he has ever seen, one that includes captain Michael Bradley and midfielder Jonathan Osorio.
Goalkeeper Sean Johnson was the standout player for the visiting side, making four saves. Italian stars Federico Bernardeschi and Lorenzo Insigne were kept relatively quiet on Toronto's offence throughout the match.
“Even though they had injuries and that makes things complicated for them, their two (designated players) are there, they’re on the field,” said Losada. “Two players with great individual technique who can make the difference.”
Lappalainen, who came on as a substitute at halftime, broke the deadlock in the 53rd minute.
Defender George Campbell jumped up in the play, dribbled around several opponents and advanced the ball to the Finnish winger, who slotted a low cross into the box past Johnson before a sellout crowd of 19,619 at Stade Saputo.
“George just dribbled past everyone and gave me a good pass, and then I tried to make another good pass and it just went it,” said Lappalainen of the goal. “That's the truth, unfortunately, but it's a goal.”
Marshall-Rutty earned the red card soon after. Offor then doubled Montreal’s lead in the 68th minute, finishing a cross from Zachary Brault-Guillard that deflected off opposing defender Aime Mabika.
Johnson made a series of saves late in the second half to keep Toronto’s deficit at two, stopping Ariel Lassiter, Brault-Guillard and Choiniere on the doorstep. Montreal goalkeeper Jonathan Sirois earned a clean sheet on the other end.
With the two results this week, Campbell says Montreal is proving to be the better side in this rivalry.
“We won earlier in Toronto and won here, I think we’ve had a good run of games and I think we're really showing that we’re the better team,” he said.
The match started off slow, with neither club producing a shot on goal in the first half.
Toronto FC dominated possession in the first 25 minutes, often funnelling their offence through Bernardeschi, but had trouble finding a finishing product in the final third.
Montreal then started putting more pressure on the visitors. Its best chance to score in the first half came in the 29th minute when wingback Aaron Herrera broke down the right side and found Offor in the box, but the striker put his header over the net.
At the end of the half, Montreal came close to taking the lead when Choiniere slid a pass to Lassiter on the break, but the winger’s shot went wide.
CF Montreal celebrated the franchise’s 30th anniversary with a ceremony on the pitch at halftime. Montreal, then known as the Impact, played its inaugural season in the American Professional Soccer League in 1993 and its first MLS season in 2012. The franchise rebranded to become CF Montreal in January 2021. As part of the celebration, Montreal also unveiled a new historical path at Stade Saputo to commemorate the club’s 30-year history.
NO SUPPORTERS SECTION
CF Montreal closed the visiting supporters’ section at Stade Saputo for Saturday’s match after fights between Toronto FC and Montreal fans broke out in the BMO Field stands during the Canadian Championship quarterfinal on Tuesday. Toronto FC fans who’d bought seats in the supporters’ section for Saturday were refunded and the tickets were put back up for sale.
Montreal hits the road to play FC Cincinnati on Wednesday and New York Red Bulls next Saturday.
Toronto hosts the Red Bulls on Wednesday, then visits Austin FC next Saturday.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 13, 2023.
Daniel Rainbird, The Canadian Press