Victory for Atlético Ottawa in Last-Minute Redemption

Victory for Atlético Ottawa in Last-Minute Redemption

Atlético Ottawa secured a thrilling victory against Forge FC on June 28th at TD Place to snatch three points with a late goal, extending their position at the top of the league table. The game concluded with seven goals total, a stark contrast to last week’s 1-1 draw, though Ottawa could have widened their goal difference further if not for two defensive errors in the second half, including an own goal and a costly backpass. This 4-3 victory marks a significant turnaround for a club which struggled last year with conceding late goals, and who are now emerging as a team that scores when it matters most.

Ottawa took an early lead, flipping the script from last week’s game against Cavalry FC, by scoring in the 2nd minute off a set piece. David Choinière fouled Gabriel Antinoro half way into Forge’s half, and he capitalized on the free kick, sending it high into the box to meet Aboubacar Sissoko running in towards the center of the 10-yard line. Swiftly, Sissoko turned away from the goal and volleyed it, sending it over Christopher Kalongo and into the back of the net, marking his first goal in red-and-white stripes.  

Photo © CPL

After his stunning goal, Sissoko wasted no time in attempting another strike in the 5th minute. Manny Aparicio tapped the ball to Sissoko after collecting the pass from Matteo de Brienne’s beautiful interception, but Sissoko opted for a long shot from outside the box that had too much power and soared high over the crossbar. Within the same minute, Del Campo serviced the ball centrally to Sissoko in the arc and it was subsequently pushed up to Ballou Tabla. However, Garven Metusala intercepted the ball, and got it to Malik Owolabi-Belewu, who cleared it out of the box. Aparicio then regained possession, but unleashed a strike that went wide of the frame.

Ottawa almost doubled their lead in the 20th minute, but Kalongo’s quick reaction denied them the opportunity. Aparicio had fed de Brienne up the left flank, who controlled and sent the ball into the penalty area for Antinoro. Kalongo blocked Antinoro’s attempt on target by going low to his left, but he fumbled the ball and Del Campo ran in to capitalize on the rebound, only to be pulled down by Metusala, preventing the striker from directing his shot. The ball ricocheted off Kalongo’s legs before he went to ground to trap it. Despite shouts for a penalty, the referee made no such call, leaving Ottawa to complain to no result.

Forge began pressing in the 24th minute when Daniel Parra switched play to the left flank – Béni Badibanga crossed into Ottawa’s box, but he put too much weight on it and sent the ball directly into Nathan Ingham’s arms. The midfielder then took another strike from distance in the 26th minute, forcing Ingham to make a diving save at the near post, testing the keeper for the first time this match. In the 32nd minute, another attempt by Badibanga from closer range at the 18-yard line was comfortably caught by Ingham, who jumped high to grab the ball. Noah Jensen also made a long-range effort in the 27th minute that sailed high over the crossbar.

The Hamiltonians were given another opportunity to equalize in the 33rd minute from a set piece awarded to Dominic Samuel for a foul committed by de Brienne in a dangerous spot. Babidanga took the kick sending it across the frame – Metusala slid in at the far post to meet the ball, but wasn’t quick enough and it went out for a goal kick.

Atlético finished the half with 7 shots to Forge’s 3 and led 1-0, but the game quickly shifted in the second half marking one of the most exciting and anxiety-inducing matches this season for both sets of supporters. Forge started the second half in the ascendency, with their first opportunity on the frame coming in the 46th minute. Alexander Achinioti-Jönsson passed up field to Kwasi Poku – Luke Singh was ready to intercept the ball, but it rolled under his foot, leaving Poku to pick it up and strike without taking time to control it. However, his shot lacked power and was easily gathered by Ingham.

Unfortunately for the home team, a defensive error by Singh in the 48th minute led to an own goal, leveling the score at 1-1. As Noah Jensen surged forward, he fed Choinière at the edge of the box who tracked the ball to the byline before passing centrally. Singh blocked the shot with his chest, accidentally redirecting it towards the frame (possibly trying to induce either a corner or a backpass to be collected by the keeper). Ingham quickly dropped to his knees to grab the ball headed towards his feet, but it bounced through his hands and slipped into the net, costing Ottawa their lead.

Capitalizing on the momentum, in the 55th minute Choinière sprinted down the right flank and into the box to make an attempt at the 10-yard line, and Ingham dove left to parry the ball out for a corner. From the ensuing play Forge crossed into Ottawa’s penalty area, where Jensen tucked the ball away with a clean header, giving the visitors a 2-1 lead.

Ottawa, determined to level the score once more, looked to exploit a set piece in the 62nd minute. Ollie Bassett’s free kick from just inside the half reached Forge’s end – Kalongo attempted to punch the ball clear, but Amer Didić rose higher, heading it into an empty net as the goalkeeper collided with him, equalizing once more the score now 2-2.

Photo © CPL

With both teams locked at two, they pressed on, creating chances at both ends. In the 66th minute, Jensen dribbled through the center and shot from distance; Ingham soared to his right and parried the ball out for a corner. The subsequent delivery sailed through a sea of red and orange before Achinioti-Jönsson headed the bouncing ball over the crossbar.

ATO regained the lead in the 70th minute when Bassett serviced the substitute Morer up the right flank, who held it for a moment before crossing it in towards Del Campo at the 10-yard line. The Swiss couldn’t connect it with his head, but Samuel Salter retrieved the ball past the far post and laid it back to him. Del Campo fired a shot towards the near post, beating Kalongo and now leading 3-2.

The visitors persisted despite the setback, and a minute later Poku received a pass just outside the box and played it to Jensen on the right, who sent the ball central to Choinière. With a simple backheel, Choinière nutmegged Didić sending the ball towards the netting – Ingham dove and tipped it away with his fingertips, and Badibanga kept the ball in play near the byline, but he couldn’t bypass Twardek and Parra battling at the near post and the ball was deflected out for a corner.  

In the 84th minute Ingham once again denied Poku with a diving save at the near post. Parra had collected a pass from Badibanga at the penalty line and evaded Didić and Dani Morer’s defending by carrying it forward. Badibanga passed back to Poku, who shot towards the near post and was comfortably gathered by Ingham as he jumped to scoop it into his chest.

For ATO fans, despair loomed in the 88th minute, when another backline error led to Forge’s equalizer. After Didić had intercepted a pass and headed it centrally to Liberman Torres, but the return ball to Singh was misplaced and Poku seized the opportunity to recover the ball and shot on net. Didić slid in to block the ball and Ingham rushed out, which left Poku open to slot the equalizer, leveling the score at 3-3.

Atlético remained resilient and refused to let the setback dictate the outcome; they pressed on for the win and found it in the 93rd minute through Torres, assisted by Morer. Twardek had returned Morer’s pass forward with a back-heel and the Spaniard crossed the ball into Forge’s box – Torres entered the area unnoticed by Duncan and powered a header past Kalongo, sinking the ball to the eruptions of TD Place as ATO claimed a 4-3 victory.

Photo © Phil Larivière

Ottawa played impressively, tallying 16 shots compared to Forge’s 12, with standout performances across the board. Despite conceding three goals, Ingham made seven crucial saves, outnumbering Kalongo’s two. Antinoro was instrumental, winning set pieces, taking shots, and assisting a goal, while linking effectively with de Brienne on the left. Sissoko made a significant impact with his debut goal for the club, along with clearances and fouls won. Bassett, Del Campo, Morer, and Salter were also pivotal in creating scoring opportunities and did well up top. Special mention goes to Liberman Torres, who rebounded from a mistake to score the game-winning goal in added time, marking his first for the club. This victory is also significant as it’s the first time Forge has lost a game after leading at some point.

Atlético Ottawa play their next match against Pacific FC at TD Place on July 7th at 1 PM. These teams have met three times this season, taking home a draw, win, and loss each. Pacific will be fighting to keep their playoff spot this game, while Ottawa looks to further extend their lead at the top of the table.

About the Author

C.D. Girard (she/her/elle) discovered Atlético Ottawa during their 2023 season and has been a loyal fan ever since. A long-time admirer of the sport, she first began playing football at the age of seven and most looks forward to international competitions where she supports both Canada and the Netherlands.

Read more