TORONTO — Sebastian Giovinco scored twice to lift Toronto FC to a 2-1 victory over the Montreal Impact on Tuesday, and the Canadian championship title.
Giovinco scored the game-winner in added time, running and leaping into the crowd of delirious Toronto fans in the south stands at BMO Field. The final whistle blew just seconds later, to the delight of the crowd of 26,539.
The victory in the two-leg series sends Toronto to the CONCACAF Champions League.
Ballou Tabla scored Montreal’s lone goal to give the visitors the lead in the 36th minute.
Blerim Dzemaili was headed for goal after a give-and-go with Ignacio Piatti. Dzemaili was slide-tackled by Chris Mavinga, but the ball bounced back to the Swiss international and he tapped it to Tabla, who fired a high shot past Clint Irwin from just inside the 18-yard box.
Giovinco got Toronto on the board in the 54th minute. The Italian striker took a long cross from Michael Bradley, controlled it with a couple of touches before turning and firing in a blistering left-footed shot.
Jozy Altidore, who sat out the first half after playing back-to-back 90-minute games, had a glorious chance to clinch the victory in the 83rd minute, jumping for a header that he sent whizzing just over the Montreal net. The near miss elicited groans from the crowd.
Three minutes later, Giovinco appeared to be taken down in the box, which had fans and Toronto players screaming for a penalty. The referee signalled the teams to play on. Another call led to an angry scuffle between several players including Montreal’s Patrice Bernier, who was shown a red card.
The teams had battled to a 1-1 draw a week earlier in Montreal, but TFC’s away goal at Saputo Stadium gave them the advantage heading into Tuesday.
There is little love lost between the two teams, who’ve met in the playoffs the past two seasons. There were plenty of hard tackles, including one just before halftime that had the crowd booing. A split second after Steven Beitashour passed the ball, he was hit in the midsection by Kyle Fisher, the hit sending the Toronto defender somersaulting through the air.
The bad blood has also spilled into the crowd. Impact fans hoisted a three-tiered sign in Montreal last week that paired an F-bomb with Toronto. Toronto fans responded on Tuesday, with a similar multi-tiered sign that read “We Dare Say What Everyone Thinks — Quebexit.”
A more goodnatured sign read ”Today’s Forecast, 17 Pts. Clear,” poking fun at the wide gap between the two teams in this season’s Major League Soccer standings. Toronto (10-5-2) leads the league with 35 points. Montreal (4-6-5) is last in the Eastern Conference, with 18.
Montreal clobbered Toronto 3-0 to end TFC’s first-ever playoff appearance in 2015, but Toronto got its revenge in a thrilling overtime victory in last year’s Eastern Conference final. This two-leg Canadian tournament was the first meeting between the rivals since then.
TFC, who beat the Vancouver Whitecaps to win last year’s Canadian championship, had several other excellent scoring chances, including one in the early minutes that saw Tosaint Ricketts connect with a Giovinco pass across the net that Ricketts sent sailing over the net.
Toronto has hoisted the Voyageurs Cup trophy six times, defeating Vancouver every time in the final. Montreal has won three times, beating Toronto twice in the final.
The Canadian Championship winner also earns a team bonus of US$50,000.