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Akinola makes first appearance as Canada defeats Haiti to move on to Gold Cup quarter-finals

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Les Rouges are off to the final eight after another convincing win.

Haiti v Canada: Group B - 2021 CONCACAF Gold Cup
Cyle Larin #17 of Canada celebrates with his teammate Tajon Buchanan #12 of Canada after scoring the second goal during a Group B match between Haiti and Canada as part of the 2021 CONCACAF Gold Cup at Children’s Mercy Park on July 15, 2021 in Kansas City, Kansas.
Photo by Omar Vega/Getty Images

TORONTO, Canada—The Canadian men’s national team are moving on in the 2021 CONCACAF Gold Cup quarter-finals as Les Rouges defeated Haiti 4-1 Thursday evening in what was an entertaining affair.

Canada would open the scoring just five minutes into the match thanks to a moment of brilliance from Leamington, Ontario native Stephen Eustaquio. From almost 30 yards out, the holding midfielder would wrap his foot around a free kick, bending one into the near post just out of the reach of the outstretched Haitian goalkeeper to give his side the early 1-0 lead.

Eustaquio, 24, who plays in the top flight league in Portugal for F.C. Paços de Ferreira has seen his stock rise of late, scoring his first goal in a Canada shirt last time out against Martinique and again today against Haiti. He will play a pivotal role in the heart of Canada’s midfield moving forward in this tournament, as well as in September when the men’s national team continue their World Cup qualifying campaign.

Canada, who lined up in a 3-5-2 yet again for this match, would dictate the tempo for the majority of the first half, but it would actually be Haiti with the best two chances of the opening 45. Both times, however, Vancouver Whitecaps goalkeeper Maxime Crépeau would be up to the task, turning away both Haitian efforts from point-blank range.

With a flurry of other quality keepers, Crépeau, 27, has certainly been making a case to claim Canada’s No. 2 spot in net behind 33-year-old Milan Borjan, who was not part of the Gold Cup squad but will surely be involved for World Cup Qualifiers.

Both sides would head into the break with the score 1-0, and despite the one-goal lead, Canada was likely left unsatisfied after one of their weaker halves of football in quite a while. The team was shaky defensively and didn’t threaten much offensively, despite maintaining the majority of possession.

Like the opening half, Canada would strike early in the second. Another powerful run forward by Tajon Buchanan, who has been stellar so far in this Gold Cup tournament, helped set up the man who can’t seem to stop scoring, as Cyle Larin found space at the top of the box to receive a cutback from Buchanan, and the Besiktas striker made no mistake.

The goal was Larin’s ninth of the year, establishing a new Canadian men’s national team record for the most goals scored by a single player in a calendar year.

While Canada may have felt comfortable after getting their second, Haiti would quickly add worry back into this match, as just five minutes after the Canadians took a two-goal lead, Stéphane Lambese would draw his side back within one. With plenty of opportunity to clear the ball, Canada would fail to do so and Haiti would make them pay with a tidy bit of football before Lambese smashed one home.

While Haiti had an opportunity to seize the momentum, Les Rouges wouldn’t allow it, immediately responding. After both Mark-Anthony Kaye and Tajon Buchanan hit the post, Richie Laryea was clearly taken down in the box—moments after checking into the game. And although the referee didn’t immediately give the decision, VAR was brought into effect and Canada was rightfully rewarded a penalty.

Up to the spot stepped Larin, and once again, the Canadian striker made no mistake.

The 78th minute marked a monumental moment for Canada. Both Ayo Akinola and Houston Dynamo winger Tyler Pasher would check into the match for their first appearance in a Canadian shirt.

And moments after coming on, in fact before he could even take his first touch, Akinola would earn his country another penalty, as he was taken down by François André Dulysse, who was subsequently sent off for his actions. Junior Hoilett would step up to the spot and make no mistake, putting the Canadians up 4-1.

And that’s how things would finish—Canada 4, Haiti 1. At the end of the day, the team got the job done, but frustration from the fanbase after a ‘subpar’ performance, goes to show just how far this team has come and just how high expectations have risen.

With the win, Canada have booked their spot in the final eight. The team will close out the group stage on Sunday with a marquee matchup against the United States. The winner of that match will likely secure the top spot in Group B. Kickoff is at 5 pm ET, and as always, you can catch all of the action on OneSoccer.

For what it’s worth, Canada will play either Costa Rica or Jamaica in the quarter-final next week.