FC Edmonton left it late to overcame a two-goal deficit to earn themselves a draw against Atletico Ottawa as the Albertan team register their first goals of the 2020 campaign.
Easton Ongaro, FC Edmonton's top scorer last season, finally got himself off the mark when he tapped in from less than a yard out in the 91st-minute to make the game 2-2.
Though that was one of the last kicks of the ball, the scoreline changed first over 90 minutes beforehand, Atletico Ottawa's Francisco Acuña setting a new CPL record when he raced onto a through ball by Malcolm Shaw to make it 1-0 after 22 seconds.
An uneventful second-half followed, and it looked like the game would peter out with Atletico camped in their half. Defending well against an unimaginative Edmonton side, the Ontario team blocked cross after cross with captain Brandon John clearing the balls that made their way into the 18-yard area.
It took 88-minutes but, substitute Hanson Boakai provided the spark required. The 23-year-old picked the ball up on the edge of the area and, exploiting the space between John and Hamilton, drove into the box before forcing a good save from Nacho Zabal.
The Spanish keeper was unable to keep hold of the powerful strike, spilling it into the 6-yard are for Keven Aleman to pounce upon - halving the deficit and jolting the Albertan team into life.
Tired legs may have played their part in the 91st-minute when Hamilton failed to get forward in time, playing Antony Caceres onside. The Ottawa right-back, desperate to make up for the mistake, may have done more harm than good as he blocked in front of his keeper.
Ricocheting wide, Caceres pounced on the ball flashing it between the retreating Hamilton's legs to be tapped in on the line by a grateful Ongaro earning FC Edmonton their first point of the season.
Atletico Ottawa shake off their early nerves following Valour thumping.
This new incarnation of the Ottawa-Edmonton rivalry was an opportunity for both teams to wipe away the issues they have faced so far this season. Atletico Ottawa was aiming to finish a game without a red card, and FC Edmonton had a point to prove after their lacklustre display in 'Al Classico', hoping to not only find their first points but get their first goals too.
It wasn't to be the organised start the Albertan side were wishing for though, as within the first minute they were trailing. Atletico's Mexican playmaker latched onto Shaw's through-ball after he intercepted a sloppy pass in midfield by Erik Zetterberg.
Acuna darted into the penalty area, keeping the defenders at bay before he dispatched a low shot to the near post out of Connor James' reach. The strike, scored after merely 22-seconds, is now the fastest goal in Canadian Premier League history beating Marco Bustos' 27-second strike for Valour last season. Atletico's early pressure was paying off as time and time again they would find themselves winning the ball in midfield. FC Edmonton were limited to only one shot on target in the first half coming in the 7th-minute, a tame 25-yard volley from Allan Zebie straight into the gloves of Nacho Zabal. Ottawa should've doubled their lead two minutes later when Vashon Neufville, returning from suspension, delivered a pinpoint low cross to the penalty spot. Mohamed Kourouma took one touch to steady himself before firing the bouncing ball against the crossbar with James well beaten. The one-way traffic didn't cease, and on the 15th-minute the Ontarian side finally doubled their lead. Following a neat interchange in midfield, the ball came out wide to right-back Malyk Hamilton. The youngster fed Acuna, who had drifted between the lines and into acres of space, the 32-year-old took one touch before dispatching a right-footed strike into the bottom right of the goal to double Atletico's lead. Atletico's game substantially improved in comparison to their opening fixtures as the team were passing the ball around with greater fluidity, more 1st time passes and even confident flicks. FC Edmonton couldn't get out. With half-time approaching the Albertan side started to progress, frustrating Ottawa into challenges with both Ben Fisk and 16-year-old Antoine Coupland, a first-half substitute for the injured Ben McKendry, receiving yellow cards.
Despite this, Jeff Paulus' men went into the break with merely one shot on target. Defensive leaks cost Atletico again as Edmonton leave the drama till late. The second-half was a shadow of the first, with chances coming few and far between and the play often looking disjointed. A common theme for Atletico so far this season has been manager Miguel Martinez' (known as 'Mista') insistence on not using all of his permitted substitutions - a tactic that has been questioned by many and, in this case, definitely played its part against the fresh legs introduced by the Albertan side. Atletico's defence held firm throughout the second half. Camped on their 18-yard line, fullbacks Neufville and Hamilton had impressive games, blocking almost every cross that FC Edmonton attempted to fire into the area. Leading by example, captain Brandon John confidently dealt with most crosses that beat the first man and, with the final whistle looming it seemed that the Ontarian side had done enough to register the clubs first-ever win.
The lack of creativity will have frustrated Paulus, and he had to wait until the 88th-minute to see the spark they had been craving all game. Substitute Hanson Boakai, collecting the ball on the left-hand side of the 18-yard area, decided to drive into the box instead of recycling the play out wide - a change of tactic that sliced the Atletico defence in half. His shot, low and hard to Nacho's left, had too much power on it and the veteran keeper could only palm it back into his six-yard area. Marked by a tired Malcolm Shaw, Keven Alemán was on his toes, pouncing to give FC Edmonton life. With the score at 2-1 FC Edmonton had been given new life, and it was another second-half substitute that provided the spark. 20-year-old Antony Caceres, coming in off the left-wing, played the ball inside to Boakai. With a run timed to perfection, the young Canadian midfielder received the return pass, fending off the recovering challenge from Hamilton and the onrushing Nacho (who mostly got in each other's way), before rolling the ball along the goal line for Easton Ongaro to tap in. Though the goal will go down as Ongaro's, all the credit must go to Caceres whose determination and running off the ball created the opportunity. It was too little too late though as both teams had to settle for the 2-2 draw. Atletico Ottawa will rue the opportunity they had to collect their first win and a vital three points in the race for the play-offs. However, FC Edmonton will have wanted the game to continue for another five minutes as, after 88-uninspiring-minutes they had the Ontarian outlet on the ropes. In the standings, this draw won't do any favours to either side as they remain in the bottom two, but there are positives to be taken for both sides. Atletico Ottawa finally looking like a collective rather than a group of players (though they will have to address the fatigue and ability to see out games) and FC Edmonton must build on the creativity showed at the end.