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CF Montreal book ticket to Champions League quarterfinals with dominant 3-0 win

MONTREAL — The Montreal Impact had their hearts broken in the final five minutes of the 2009 CONCACAF Champions League quarters finals 13 years ago when two late Santos Laguna goals sent them home.
CF Montreal's Djordje Mihailovic reacts after scoring against Mexico's Santos Laguna during the first half of the second leg of their 2022 CONCACAF Champions League soccer game in Montreal, Wednesday, February 23, 2022. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes

MONTREAL — The Montreal Impact had their hearts broken in the final five minutes of the 2009 CONCACAF Champions League quarters finals 13 years ago when two late Santos Laguna goals sent them home.

Now CF Montreal, demons were exorcized with an impressive 3-0 win in the second leg round of 16 of the same tournament at the Olympic Stadium.

“I wouldn’t call this a perfect game, but it felt like the players were on a mission tonight,” said head coach Wilfried Nancy. “I’m proud of the effort and the team is really getting behind what we’re trying to do at the club.”

Goals from Romell Quioto, Djorde Mihailovic, and Ismael Koné means that they will face the winner of the tie between Mexican side Cruz Azul and the CPL’s Forge FC.

After losing the first leg 1-0, Montreal came storming out of the gate with the full force of the home crowd behind them.

“We went into (the first leg) a little over-anxious and despite giving up a goal in the last minute we went away from it pretty optimistic,” said Mihailovic. “When we came back to Montreal a lot of the guys felt like we could do something really special here.”

It only took 45 seconds for the home side to show their intentions as Lassi Lappalainen got in behind the Santos Laguna defence, forcing a last-ditch interception.

At the 10-minute mark, Montreal finally broke the Santos defence as Quioto was played in by Mathieu Choinière, went around the keeper, and scored from the tightest of angles.

“We are not a team that wait,” said Nancy. “We like to be proactive and really control the game. I’m really happy that we did all that as a unit and caused a lot of trouble in their end.”

It was not game over as Montreal kept pressing, looking to take an all-important aggregate lead.

Only 12 minutes after Quioto’s opener, Mihailovic beat two defenders before firing a rocket from close range and smashing the ball into the underside of the crossbar, doubling Montreal’s lead.

Montreal continued its dominance as the second half started forcing two excellent saves from Santos keeper Carlos Acevedo.

“We have a good idea about what we want to accomplish here,” said Mihailovic. “We’re a confident young team and last year was a huge growing opportunity and we ended the year with a championship. We brought that momentum into this competition.”

The frustration and desperation from Santos began to show as the game got increasingly chippy, prompting the official to book multiple players and regain control of the game.

Only minutes later, new signing Koné was through on goal after some brilliant link-up play with Joaquin Torres but was denied a debut first goal.

He only had to wait eight minutes to rectify that when Mihailovic put the ball on a silver platter for Kone in the middle of the box. Koné made no mistake, effectively sealing the tie for Montreal in a historically dominant display in front of a raucous 13,000 home fans.

“It was a near perfect game in my opinion,” said Mihailovic. “Based on what we had to accomplish, a lot of the credit has to go to our defence for keeping a clean sheet. When I say perfect game, it was a collective effort. Everyone played their roles to perfection.”

CF Montreal will now turn their attention to their MLS season opener in on Feb. 27 when they travel to face Orlando City SC at Exploria Stadium.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 23, 2022.

Elias Grigoriadis, The Canadian Press

Note to readers: This is a corrected story. A previous version incorrectly stated that Montreal's opening goal was set up by Joaquin Torres. In fact, Mathieu Choinière provided the assist.