Report and Reaction: Ahmed injury curtails Whitecaps joy as they beat Pacific FC to reach Canadian Championship final

Report and Reaction: Ahmed injury curtails Whitecaps joy as they beat Pacific FC to reach Canadian Championship final

A scary injury to Vancouver Whitecaps midfielder Ali Ahmed overshadowed a comfortable 3-0 victory for the defending champions at Starlight Stadium in Langford on Wednesday evening in their Canadian Championship semi-final against CPL side Pacific FC.

Goals from Julian Gressel and Ahmed had given the Whitecaps a two goal lead by the 17th minute as they sought to avenge their demons in defeat two years ago on the island in the same competition. Two minutes later and any joy was soon diminished following a 17 minute stoppage for an injury to Ahmed that saw the young ‘Caps standout carted off on a stretcher and taken to hospital where he was diagnosed with a concussion after a number of evaluations.

A third goal from Simon Becher late in the second half sealed the Whitecaps’ win, but all thoughts were with their injured teammate rather than celebrating the chance to make it back to back victories in the competition in a final with CF Montreal coming up next month.

Vanni Sartini made five changes to the team that started the win over Seattle on Saturday, reverting to a four at the back and a 4-3-2-1 formation.

As expected it was a fast paced start from both teams, with the Whitecaps having the best chance in the early going six minutes in when a lofted ball fell to Brian White on the edge of the six yard box and his shot was well saved and turned away by Emil Gazdov.

Alessandro Schopf was next to try his luck for the visitors, hitting a dipping 20 yarder just over in the 10th minute after picking up the ball from a cleared corner.

The game sparked into life in the 14th minute as the action roared from one side of the pitch to the other.

As Pacific pressed, a cross came to Ayman Sellouf at the back of the box and his volley was turned away by Yohei Takaoka, The Whitecaps broke quickly from the rebound and Schopf tore forward, playing the ball outside to Gressel who fired a fierce low one past Gazdov and into the far corner to give the defending champions the lead.

Already a marked difference from the last meeting between the two teams that saw Vancouver play catch up for much of the game, things got even better for the Whitecaps in the 17th minute when Pacific couldn’t fully clear another corner, a header falling straight to Ahmed, who volleyed home the ‘Caps second from 12 yards out.

All the Whitecaps joy was suddenly brought to a halt in the 18th minute when Ahmed went crashing to the crowd after a heavy challenge. The young midfielder was knocked out cold at one point and needed medical attention on the pitch for 17 minutes before being transported away from the stadium in an ambulance.

Understandably there was a subdued atmosphere in the stadium following the injury, but as the game continued Sean Young saw an effort blocked in the ‘Caps box as the home side pushed to get back into the game.

Manny Aparicio had a shot saved by Takaoka in the 43rd minute and with the game heading into 17 minutes of time added on at the end of the half, Aidan Daniels saw his looping header tipped onto the bar by Takaoka and the danger was cleared.

That was the last real goalmouth action for the half. Both teams needed to regroup in different ways at the break, Pacific to get back into the match and Vancouver for getting into a better headspace after the Ahmed injury.

Both teams came out fast again the start the half, but it was Pacific who were the looking the more dangerous.

Aparicio flashed a ball across goal in the 51st minute but there was no-one running in to tuck it away and moments later Sellouf curled one wide.

The action then dipped but Aparicio nearly brought the Starlight crowd to their feet again in the 67th minute with a 20 yarder, which was turned away by a full stretch Takaoka.

Any hopes of a Pacific comeback were ended in the 78th minute. Just on the pitch, Becher broke up a play and as the ‘Cpas brought it forward, the ball was slipped inside to the striker who finished through the legs of Gazdov and Vancouver led by three.

With a celebration dedicated to his friend Ahmed, it was the perfect player to get the next goal in this one.

The game petered out and the Whitecaps subdued celebrations at the final whistle said it all really.

The victory sees Vancouver have the chance to lift back to back Voyageurs Cups as they take on CF Montreal in the final at BC Place next month.

Those thoughts can wait for now, with everyone more thinking about the health of Ali Ahmed. The good news announced by the Whitecaps after the match is that it is a concussion is still serious, but far better than some of the worrying thoughts going through people’s minds when the incident first happened.

With the worry easing, the team can now enjoy their moment as they look to win their first ever back-to-back championships.

FINAL SCORE: Pacific FC 0 – 3 Vancouver Whitecaps

ATT: 5,221

14′ – VAN – Julian Gressel (Alessandro Schöpf)
17′ – VAN – Ali Ahmed
78′ – VAN – Simon Becher (Pedro Vite)

Possession: PAC 35.6% – VAN 64.4%
Shots: PAC 16 – VAN 10
Shots on Goal: PAC 3 – VAN 5
Saves: PAC 2 – VAN 3
Fouls: PAC 10 – VAN 16
Offsides: PAC 1 – VAN 0
Corners: PAC 7 – VAN 5

PACIFIC: Emil Gazdov; Kunle Dada-Luke, Amer Didic, Thomas Meilleur-Giguère, Georges Mukumbilwa; Sean Young (Steffen Yeates 78′), Cédric Toussaint (Kekuta Manneh 55′), Manny Aparicio; Josh Heard (Pierre Lamothe 77′), Djenairo Daniels (Easton Ongaro 62′), Ayman Sellouf (Adonijah Reid 62′) [Substitutes not used: Kieran Baskett, Eric Lajeunesse]

VANCOUVER: Yohei Takaoka; Ryan Raposo (Luís Martins 64′), Mathías Laborda, Tristan Blackmon, Ali Ahmed (Javain Brown 35′); Julian Gressel, Andrés Cubas, Russell Teibert (Déiber Caicedo 76′); Sergio Córdova, Alessandro Schöpf (Pedro Vite 64′); Brian White (Simon Becher 76′) [Substitutes not used: Thomas Hasal, Ryan Gauld]

Authored by: Michael McColl

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