“For the game to be decided like that again, by the refs, that are not at the [required] level... it’s unacceptable to give a red card like that in a final.”
The officiating was not ideal. That’s an understatement. Many curious calls, and non-calls, left both sides shaking their heads and pulling out their hair (wish Dominic Oduro would pull out his). But for Mauro Biello to say that Tuesday night’s Canadian Championship final was “decided” by the red card that referee Dave Gantar issued to Patrice Bernier is a stretch. A big stretch.
Yet this is one of the central themes emanating from Montreal. In the wake of such a dramatic game, it would be better if the Impact took ownership of their performance and realized that they were the masters of their own fate.
Montreal only recorded two shots on goal. One went in. The other was a ‘Piatti special’; late in the first half, Ignacio Piatti was able to cut in from the left side and hit the ball with his right foot from the top of the 18-yard box. He didn’t finish with his usual flair, and Clint Irwin made the save.
Piatti’s inability to score on one of his trademark plays was not the referee’s fault. Nor was it the referee’s fault that the Impact failed to register another shot on target for the rest of the match. Piatti, and Matteo Mancosu were unable to trouble TFC’s back line for most of the match. On the night, they lacked the speed and craftiness required to find a way through. That wasn’t the referee’s fault.
Montreal only managed eight crosses and 300 successful passes. They had 23 unsuccessful dribbles and, despite intercepting the ball 20 times, only 44% of the possession. Again, unless the referee was controlling the ball with his mind, these futile stats were not his fault. It was also not the referee’s fault that Biello decided to play for extra time and keep Anthony Jackson-Hamel on the bench.
The argument emanating from Mount Royal is that the referee’s inability to control the game led to a favourable situation for the home team. But the officiating was questionable for both sides.
For instance, Gantar should have issued a red card to Kyle Fisher for his challenge on Steven Beitashour at the end of the first half. He should have also granted TFC a penalty kick late in the second half, when Sebastian Giovinco was brought down. He did neither. Both clubs were also the victims of phantom offside calls and missed fouls throughout the match. Yet the Reds found a way to push through.
At times, it was not pretty. The game was physical and the stakes were high. That’s the way it should have been. It was a cup final, after all.
Aside from Ballou Tabla, the Impact were not impactful (sorry... had to say it). Further griping from Montreal that Michael Bradley and Jozy Altidore “intimidated” the referee can (and should) be dismissed. The referee was not “intimidated” when Beitashour was rocked, nor when Altidore dove for a penalty call, nor when Victor Vazquez was clipped from behind, nor when Raheem Edwards’ ankle was mangled, nor when Giovinco was fouled. The referee also engaged Greg Vanney in “conversation” throughout the match and refused to allow the Montreal players, coaches and trainers to unnerve him after the game.
None of these are the actions of an “intimidated” official.
Yes, the referee did not have a good game. Yes, Bernier’s foul probably should have been a yellow card (if at all). But, to claim that a sending-off in the 89th minute is the main reason for your team’s defeat shows a complete lack of ownership and accountability.
On the night, Toronto FC was the better team, and deserved to win. Again.