Report and Reaction: Bang Bang Bouanga sinks Whitecaps’ Champions League hopes as LAFC put on a second half clinic
The mission was a clear one for Vancouver Whitecaps in the first leg of their CONCACAF Champions League quarter-final at BC Place on Wednesday evening – take a lead into the second leg next week and keep their opponents off the scoreboard, avoiding an away goal. A clear mission, but it was never going to be an easy one when your opponents are the MLS champions and a team ‘Caps coach Vanni Sartini described as the best club side in North America right now.
What started as a night full of hope and promise, following on from Saturday’s big win over Montreal, turned into a second half nightmare as an Kwadwo Opoku goal was sandwiched between two absolutely fantastic Denis Bouanga efforts to give LAFC what already looks to be an unassailable lead to take into next Tuesday’s second leg.
Sartini made four changes from the team that started Saturday’s demolition job against Montreal. The heroes from the weekend, Simon Becher and Ali Ahmed, dropped to the bench, with Ryan Gauld and Cristian Dajome among the players coming in.
It was a slow paced start by both sides but the game almost sprung into life in the 13th minute when the ‘Caps kept the pressure on as LAFC tried to clear a corner, ending with Tristan Blackmon forcing a diving save from visiting keeper John McCarthy from a fierce strike across goal.
LA were happy to give up a lot of possession to Vancouver, were really able to create much in the final third.
The visitors had their first look on goal in the 32nd minute when Carlos Vela played a lovely ball over the top of the Whitecaps defence. Bouanga timed his run to perfection to get on to it, but swept his effort narrowly past the far post.
That was pretty much it for the first half. You definitely got the feeling that Sartini just wanted to keep things tight, keep LAFC off the scoreboard, then bring on Becher and Ahmed for last 15 or 20 minutes to try and get that lead for the second leg, with anything other than that being a very nice added bonus.
The ‘Caps did try to take the game to the visitors to start the second, with Brian White heading over a deep ball into box.
LAFC got their first real shot on goal in the 53rd minute, with Yohei Takaoka forced to make a good stop.
Then from out of nowhere, the MLS champions took the lead with an absolute banger from Bouanga from over 25 yards out that flew over the head of Takaoka as it dipped in on goal with some pace.
Denis Bouanga gives #LAFC a 1-0 lead just before the hour mark in this #SCCL23 clash vs. #VWFC with this knuckle-ball screamer 😱
🔴 https://t.co/7JFAUhgjL6 pic.twitter.com/IJ6IGkUsB1
— OneSoccer (@onesoccer) April 6, 2023
The one thing Vancouver wanted not to happen in the match, LAFC scoring, now forced them to open up and take the game to their visitors, but before they could make the attacking change of bringing on Becher and Ahmed, disaster struck for the ‘Caps and they found themselves two goals down just past the hour mark.
Andres Cubas was outmuscled by Bouanga just inside his own box. The loose ball fell to Opoku, who picked it up with glee, danced past Vancouver defenders, rounded Takaoka and buried what already looked like a killer second for LAFC.
Kwadwo Opoku makes it TWO for #LAFC as they catch the #VWFC backline sleeping and force a turnover in their own box 💤#SCCL23 | 🔴 https://t.co/7JFAUhgjL6 pic.twitter.com/htKMRPO8aY
— OneSoccer (@onesoccer) April 6, 2023
Things then got worse for the Whitecaps two minutes later and they found themselves three down.
This time it was Bouanga’s turn to dance through the ‘Caps defence with a beautiful individual goal that saw him surrounded by three defenders, draw the ball back, turn on a dime to break free, and blast home his second and his side’s third of the game.
Denis Bouanga AGAIN to make it #LAFC 3-0 #VWFC in this #SCCL23 clash, sending three Whitecaps defenders to the locker rooms with this incredible cut-and-shoot finish 🤯
🔴 https://t.co/7JFAUhgjL6 pic.twitter.com/NCVqnenjbf
— OneSoccer (@onesoccer) April 6, 2023
Becher had a couple of looks on goal for Vancouver, flashing a header over in the 72nd minute, as the young guns introduction brought a renewed spark to the home side, albeit far too late.
Substitute Sergi Palancia had a chance to pile on the misery and add a fourth for LAFC in the closing minutes when he was sprung clear on goal but was denied by Takaoka.
Takaoka denied Palancia again in stoppage time, pulling off a save and then watching on agonisingly as the ball trickled towards goal but eventually just wide, and that was to be that.
Miracles are known to happen at Easter, but it would take something really, really special to resurrect the Whitecaps CONCACAF Champions League hopes after this first leg showing.
The big question now is what team are the real Whitecaps going to be? The free-flowing scorers against Montreal, buoyed by the exuberance of youth but against a really poor side, or the team picked apart by some sublime quality by LAFC tonight?
It’s probably going to fall somewhere inbetween them both, but this game certainly showed what a long way the team has to go to really compete with the best sides in MLS.
FINAL SCORE: Vancouver Whitecaps 0 -3 LAFC
55’ – LAFC – Dénis Bouanga (Carlos Vela)
61’ – LAFC – Kwadwo Opoku (Dénis Bouanga)
65’ – LAFC – Dénis Bouanga (Timothy Tillman)
Possession: VAN 44.3% – LAFC 55.7%
Shots: VAN 11 – LAFC 10
Shots on Goal: VAN 2 – LAFC 6
Saves: VAN 3 – LAFC 2
Fouls: VAN 4 – LAFC 6
Offsides: VAN 0 – LAFC 2
Corners: VAN 4 – LAFC 4<.br>
VANCOUVER: Yohei Takaoka; Javain Brown, Ranko Veselinović, Tristan Blackmon, Ryan Raposo (Luís Martins 68); Julian Gressel (Sebastian Berhalter 79), Andrés Cubas, Russell Teibert (Ali Ahmed 62); Ryan Gauld (Pedro Vite 68), Cristian Dájome (Simon Becher 62); Brian White
[Substitutes not used: Thomas Hasal, Isaac Boehmer, Mathías Laborda, Déiber Caicedo, Karifa Yao, J.C. Ngando, Kamron Habibullah]
LOS ANGELES: John McCarthy; Ryan Hollingshead, Jesús Murillo, Aaron Long, Diego Palacios; Ilie Sánchez, Kellyn Acosta, Timothy Tillman (Erik Dueñas 69); Carlos Vela, Dénis Bouanga (Sergi Palencia 83), Kwadwo Opoku (Stipe Biuk 69) [Substitutes not used: Eldin Jakupovic, Abraham Romero, Denil Maldonado, Giorgio Chiellini, Daniel Crisostomo, José Cifuentes, Nathan Ordaz]
On the match:
“It’s hard to give an assessment to the total performance in the sense of the idea was to be very well organized and don’t concede anything and try to be attacking them in the counter and then try to put more offensive weapons in the second half when the game becomes a little bit wider and maybe have a chance to score. We were almost doing it in the sense that in the first half they had more of the ball but we were defending very well. We had a shot on goal, they had a big chance but we had a couple of good chances in transition too. Second half we started very well but [Denis] Bouanga scored a banger. Unfortunately we did a disaster on our second goal… If we don’t concede that goal, I think that we were having more chances to go forward in the second half, and maybe score to even the tie. I liked the fact that we never stopped, we wanted to score, we knew that scoring a goal could probably bring chances for the second, we had chances with Simon [Becher] with the cross, Ranko [Veselinović] with a big ball into the box. Of course they had chances too, but we were pushing, pushing, that’s the thing they have tons of quality. They have a couple of players that are very good. We need to limit them to play the perfect game but unfortunately we missed a couple of chances in the first half. I would say the biggest thing is that we gifted them a goal.”
On the opening minutes of the match:
“I think to be honest, the best spell that we had was the first 15 minutes and then the second half before we conceded the goal. So we were playing well. We were doing well. We were again, if we think that we are here in LAFC and they don’t touch the ball, we are likely in a fairytale. So we are doing, I would say our game, unfortunately, they had a world class goal and a world class gift.”
How much longer can this go on zonal defence, signing players we never heard of a coach who clearly has no pro coaching experience but works cheap. Clearly with pro soccer debuting in Langley i would rather spend my money on kids that try and care and an experience coach who is not into selfie.
Vincent Donnelly, is that really you?
Forgive me, I gotta use dumb ass sockpuppet names to battle the internet wankers, so lets keep things on the down low. I miss you old friend, how are the kids? Dinner at Stefano’s on your wedding night was special. A moment I’ll never forget, forever heart warming.
Let me give you my take on this team buddy. They’re SMALL! the coach is a buffoon, and the visible owner often appears smarmy. But hey! that’s just this big dogs opinion.
Is that golf swing any better?
Take care pal.