Final Score: FC Edmonton 1-0 Atlético Ottawa
Goalscorers: Bissainthe 65′
Game of the 2022 season: 43
CPL match: 294
Match in a minute or less
For the first time in over 200 days, FC Edmonton are in the win column again, as they picked up their long-awaited first victory of the 2022 CPL season in style with a 1-0 victory over Atlético Ottawa on Sunday.
After a cagey start from both teams, as they traded chances in the first half, Edmonton got the breakthrough that they so desperately desired in the 65th minute, when Bicou Bissainthe rose highest to a great Azriel Gonzalez corner, nodding home a key goal.
From there, Edmonton as a team took care of the rest, seeing out the result right to the finish line, allowing them to celebrate a key milestone in their 2022 campaign once the final whistle finally blew.
Complete performance from Edmonton paves way for crucial first victory:
12 games, spread out over 70 days. Eight at home, four away. One game in the Canadian Championship thrown in there as well.
After this match, that’s the story of FC Edmonton’s 2022 season to date, enumerated in basic digits.
Yet, until after this game, there was one number that they just didn’t have in their statistical holster quite yet – a CPL victory.
They’d come close on several occasions, sometimes coming minutes, even seconds away from that first win, but they just couldn’t get it over the line, leading to more frustration than elation for the team so far this season, as they were often left to rue how close they’d come to a victory in several instances.
At the same time, there was room for joy recently. Despite still being without that victory, Edmonton had started to play some of their best soccer as of late, controlling large patches of their recent games, really putting their opponents under pressure.
Because of that, while the results weren’t there to show for that play yet, it felt like they were on the right track for that victory, one that felt just around the corner.
Therefore, in a sense, this result was coming for Edmonton. At least if their recent games were to be any indication, they were building, finding a way to improve each and every game. And that was on full display in this match.
From the first minute, after surviving an early scare from Ottawa, the play started to really tilt in Edmonton’s favour, as they slowly tried to break down their guests. Be it in possession, or off of set pieces, it felt like every ball that got sent into Ottawa’s box had a purpose, which was overall a good way of describing Edmonton’s play as a whole.
As a result, that left them able to survive every instance where Ottawa held on, or pushed back with a chance of their own, allowing them to first grab that winning goal in the second half, and then carry that lead over the line when they got it.
Yet, that is just a reflection of the sort of performance that Edmonton put up in this game. By most conceivable metric, they were the team deserving to win, and while that sometimes means nothing in this sport, one where a moment of magic can sometimes be all it takes to turn a game on its head, they made sure that they were on the right side of that moment, and then doing the rest from there.
“It’s a really good feeling,” Edmonton’s head coach, Alan Koch, expressed afterwards.
“Winning a football game is one of the greatest feelings on the planet. So to our staff and our players – I’m very, very happy to get a victory today. We feel like we could have and should have won one or two of our previous games, so it was taking a little bit longer to get to the first victory.”
“But it is an amazing feeling, (especially) after a lot of anguish, tough times and difficult challenges over the last few months.”
Plus, when looking at the numbers, things really look good for them there, also.
Therefore, not only will they be able to reflect on a first victory well-earned given the context of their season, but one that is well-earned in the context of the game, too, as they outshot Ottawa 12 to 11, putting up six shots on target to their guests one, splitting the Expected Goals (xG) battle 0.99-1.03. Not only that, but they won a lot of other key battles, as well, winning 59.1% of their duels, while making more tackles (13-6) and winning more fouls (15-7).
When it came to the key moments, they put everything they had into each pass, shot and tackle, and in the end, it paid off, leaving them to celebrate a moment that they won’t soon forget as a club.
“I’m happy we won,” Bissainthe said through an interpreter afterwards, “It was a team effort. Everyone put in a shift. Now, we’ve just got to carry that into the next game.”
Edmonton’s set-piece dominance pays off in a big way:
Speaking of such key moments, however, there was one area that stood out in particular for Edmonton in this game – set pieces.
A relatively even game in open play, Edmonton kicked things up another notch when it came to dead balls in this game, finding a way to create some of their best chances on such occasions.
Because of that, it only felt fitting that their goal came off such an opportunity, as a well-taken corner from Azriel Gonzalez just seemed to float onto the head of Bicou Bissainthe, who was able to nod home with ease once it met him at the back post.
Plus, there were several other instances where Edmonton created good chances off such corners and other free kicks, too, with Gonzalez, in particular, having especially dangerous delivery in terms of his crosses and his shots.
Not only that, but they maintained that solidity at both ends of the pitch, as well, doing a good job of defending a lot of Ottawa’s attacking set-pieces at the other end. And considering how dangerous Ollie Bassett’s delivery was, often sending the ball into key areas, that was no small task, yet it was one that they completed with efficiency and enthusiasm, showing an eagerness to win the first header on most corners and free kicks.
Yet, that just shows the sort of attention to detail that Edmonton had in this game. Against a very solid Ottawa side, one that was undefeated in their last five, they knew that they had to take advantage of the key moments, or else, they’d be easily punished.
Therefore, the avenue they went for was set pieces, and seeing the final result, that decision paid off for them nicely.
“We’re glad we could capitalize on one today,” Koch said.
“It just means you have to have that level of awareness and attention to detail not just to take set-pieces, but to also defend set-pieces.”
“It’s something we’ve been working on a lot,” Bissainthe added. “We’ve come close to scoring a few times, so it’s nice to be rewarded at both ends. It’s something we’re definitely going to keep working on going forward.”
But if anything, that’s not that surprising.
A look at some of the options that Edmonton has for set pieces, both in terms of delivery options, such as Gonzalez, Wesley Timoteo and Tobias Warschewski, as well as big options who can get on the end of balls in both boxes, such as Bissainthe, Warschewski, Mamadi Camara and Luke Singh, among others, they have the pieces in place.
Now, however, they’re putting the puzzle together, and when it all comes together, it creates a performance like this, one where set-pieces stole the story for all the right reasons for the hosts.
Just ask Ottawa’s boss, Carlos González, who did a good job post-game of noting how those moments influenced this game from his perspective on the other side of the equation.
“We knew that one of their big threats was the set-piece,” González said afterwards. “So today we tried to not concede too many corners. And maybe that was one of our problems, that we gave up too many false situations in our box, too many corners, as at the end of the day, those types of situations increase the possibilities of the other team to win.”
Ottawa’s patience a big key, but lack of finish the big story:
Meanwhile, on Ottawa’s side, it was a story of frustration on the day, as while they didn’t put together a bad game, they were left wanting in several moments.
That’s soccer sometimes, so that’s not a bad thing, but for an Ottawa side who was rolling as of late, undefeated in their last five heading into this one, outscoring opponents 6-3 on that run, it’s not something they’ve used to being on the wrong side of as of late.
Especially given that Ottawa didn’t do themselves any favours in terms of their overall play, either, lacking the usual sharpness that they hold in possession, as well as defensively, it made for a frustrating afternoon for the guests.
At the same time, despite that, they also had chances to take care of business in the game.
When the score was 0-0, both Malcolm Shaw and Brian Wright had pretty good chances to score from inside the box, and even when it was 1-0 Carl Haworth came close to evening up the score. But alas, it wasn’t meant to be.
Which for Ottawa, will be the most frustrating thing. They’ll know it’s never easy to play 28 strong games in a season, especially one where you have all sorts of tough away trips to tough environments – in fact, it’s impossible.
Despite that, however, it doesn’t mean that you have to be at your best to win every game, as sometimes you just have to roll up your sleeves, survive the pressure, and get the job done.
So for an Ottawa side making a strong push up the table this season, it was a good learning lesson. When they’ve been on, it’s been fun to watch, but there won’t always be days when that’s the case, so when those happen, it’s important that they find a way to grab a result.
“I think when the chances do come in a tight game like this, it’s up to us to be clinical enough to put the ball in the back of the net because you don’t if you’re gonna get another chance as good as that again,” Ottawa midfielder, Ollie Bassett, explained.
“So it’s something that we let ourselves down with, and hopefully we can put that right going forward.”
That shouldn’t be much of a problem for them going forward, you’d imagine, as they’ve done well to have a short memory (just a look at how they handled their famed 6-1 defeat earlier this year speaks very well to them), but this was just a key reminder of that.
Because of that, look for them to come out strong in their next game. As seen when they’re rolling, they’re a solid team in all areas, led by Nathan Ingham in goal, their host of capable defenders, a fluid midfield that cycles around Bassett and a front line headlined by dangerous names such as Wright, Shaw and Ballou Tabla.
But as they push to be a team that competes for the title, the next step in that building process will be being able to roll through moments of adversity like this and then come out the other side smiling despite that, with this game being a key reminder of that.
“We had two or three clear (chances) in the first half that could have given us this advantage,” González noted afterwards. “That could’ve changed the game totally. And in the second half, we also had some (chances in) situations.”
“So it’s true that the result could be another one, but it’s also true that they (Edmonton) did the game that they wanted, and we didn’t do the same.”
CanPL.ca Player of the Match
Azriel Gonzalez, FC Edmonton
While Bissainthe might grab the headlines for his well-taken goal, and rightfully so given his otherwise solid performance, his tally would not have been possible without the service of Gonzalez, yet that is just one among many examples that demonstrated how key Gonzalez was to this victory. And considering that he finished with 21/24 passes completed (88%), three chances created (including one big chance), four shots, one dribble, four crosses and three duels won all on 43 touches, that just further shows what kind of day Gonzalez had, as he was seemingly everywhere for Edmonton.
So overall, it’s a deserved player of the performance award for Gonzalez, who had a game to remember on a big day for his team, with his assist just being a small part of that puzzle for him, personally.
Edmonton heads out on the road after this game, but they won’t have to go very far, as a trip to Calgary awaits them next weekend, when they’ll take on rivals Cavalry FC in the Al Classico, coming Sunday, June 26th at ATCO Field (5:00 p.m. MT). Meanwhile, Ottawa will stay on the road, but head to a very different place, as a trip to Halifax looms in over a week, as they’re scheduled to play the HFX Wanderers on Thursday, June 30th (6:30 p.m. ET/7:30 p.m. AT).
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