Pacific FC pulled off a shock smash-and-grab as Alejandro Diaz’s stooping header allowed the Islanders to beat Atletico Ottawa 1-0 in the nation’s capital.
Despite having more of the ball and being top of the Canadian Premier League, PFC struggled for stretches as they faced a constant convoy of chances from Ottawa. In total, Pacific was outshot 23-8, with only two attempts on target during the whole game. But strong hands from Pacific goalkeeper Callum Irving and woeful finishing from the home team allowed PFC to cling on for their first victory on their three-game away trip.
PFC started slow and was under pressure, struggling to deal with a number of set-piece deliveries from midfielder Ollie Bassett, a member of last year’s title-winning PFC team. PFC was saved by multiple saves from Irving who twice stood strong when Ottawa players tried to beat him at his near post from close range.
In the second half, PFC showed more attacking guile. Speedy dribbling from Kunle Dada-Luke created problems for Ottawa. It was some tidy footwork from the Mississauga man – who had previously signed for Atletico Ottawa before joining PFC – that set up the goal, dodging one tackle before laying the ball off to Manny Aparicio, who hit a first-time shot from outside the box low and curling away from the goalkeeper, rattling the right post. The rebound popped up and Diaz was fastest, stooping to head the ball home for the opening goal of the game and Diaz’s fourth of the season.
The player from Mexico is the league’s top scorer so far, continuing on with his fine form from last season when he scored 10 in 27 matches.
Ottawa did not lose heart. Rather, the PFC goal seemed to buoy them as they laid siege to Pacific’s net, with three or four gilt-edged chances to score within three minutes.
First came centre-back Macdonald Niba’s inconceivable miss on 77 minutes, smashing the ball over the bar from four yards out. Then forward Malcolm Shaw missed two chances, the first a weak effort straight at Irving after the ball was played across to him. Then Shaw had another effort cleared off the line by PFC defender Amer Didic, less than sixty seconds after the previous.
Despite the bombardment, PFC managed to hold on and missed a chance to seal it late on, Gianni dos Santos’ close-range effort being saved by the Ottawa goalkeeper after dos Santos had charged away on the breakaway.
With the win, PFC ends their away trip atop the Canadian Premier League standings with 13 points. York United is second with eight points but has played one game fewer.
Pacific FC brings Canadian Premier League action back to Starlight Stadium on May 14 against FC Edmonton.