CSMRO 2, AS Blainville 2: Late Drama Keeps Griffons Tied for League Lead
92nd Minute Equalizer Turns Title Race Into a Three Team Affair
Rivalries are a complex sporting phenomenon. There’s an energy that fills these games that you cannot get against other teams.
Whether due to past competition or proximity, rivalry games are fixtures that both fans and players of either team have circled on the calendar from the start of the season and they rarely disappoint.
With five of the last six Première Ligue du Soccer du Québec titles shared between the Mont-Royal-Outremont Griffons and AS Blainville and a meager three-goal differential separating them, the first meeting between both teams on Sunday evening at the Town of Mont-Royal Recreation Centre was no different.
After falling behind 2-0 after just 20 minutes due to some uncharacteristically sloppy defending, the Griffons began to take control. They dictated play for the majority of the remaining 70 minutes, something captain Renan Dias attributed to their mental strength.
“It’s important not to get in your own head when you go down and we did that to ourselves a bit early on,” said Dias. “After the second goal we regrouped and sort of pressed the reset button and were able to control the rest of the game.”
The mental reset worked quickly as they drew a penalty for a handball only three minutes later, which was converted by former Blainville player Nazim Belguendouz. Regardless of the one-way traffic in MRO’s favour, they had a chance stopped inside the six-yard box and then hit the post from the same spot—both just a minute apart.
A slew of chances throughout the second half went unfinished during the Griffons’ onslaught until the second minute of injury time when substitute Mouad Ouzane got on the end of a ball from Amadou Lam and secured the point for his side.
Missed chances like the ones wasted throughout the second half are something head coach Luc Brutus wants his team to be more focused on.
“We’re only halfway through the season but we know how close the race is going to be,” said Brutus. “The result could have been more favourable if we would’ve gotten the right bounces but we’re still happy with our performance and how we dominated a lot of the game.”
With both teams going into the game tied at 17 points for first place, a stranglehold on the title at the midway point of the season was up for grabs. The draw keeps Blainville in first place, who have a better goal differential by only three. The result now means that CS Monteuil, at 15 points, is only three behind the leaders.
However the competition is something that midfielder Nazim Belguendouz and the rest of the squad looking forward to.
“You saw it today [against Blainville]. We come alive when we need to. We always do well with tough competition,” said Belguendouz. “Blainville and Monteuil are great teams and that’s how we’re going to get the best out of each other.”
With two other teams vying for the title, Brutus couldn’t emphasize enough how crucial every game was.
“For the rest of the season, every game is a final,” said Brutus. “There are some teams. That have a bit of a weaker defense and we need to exploit that but at the end of the day getting three points is still our only priority.”
This won’t come easy as their next opponent will be le Dynamo de Québec who are flying high after brutalizing last place FC Gatineau 8-1 last Saturday.
“There are no bad teams in this league,” said Dias. “We played very well against them but that was very early in the season. They’ve gotten a lot better and it won’t end 5-0 again.”
The Griffons will be hosting the Dynamo de Québec at the TMR Recreation Centre on Sunday, July 7th, at 5:00PM.
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