Chaos. That is one of the few words that come to mind when thinking about Atlético Ottawa’s 3-2 win over the HFX Wanderers on Wednesday night at TD Place. Two goals were scored in stoppage time, one coming off a penalty awarded to HFX to tie the game, before Ottawa reclaimed the lead for good with a controversial goal just seconds later, a goal that HFX fans won’t get over for some time.
Regardless, if you came to the park looking to be entertained, whether you were cheering for Atlético or HFX, or if you came as a neutral, you left with what you wanted.
For Ottawa, however, this was a much-needed victory after falling flat against Pacific in Victoria late last week, and marked the fifth consecutive time they followed a defeat with either a draw or a win. Still yet to lose two games in a row, Atlético sits in third place in the CPL table, comfortably ahead of Valour in fifth place.
“I haven’t had a long career as a coach, but I have lived in moments like this,” said Atlético Ottawa head coach Carlos Gonzalez after the win. “I think it was a victory of pride, of personality, of wanting to win. I’m very happy for the players because they deserve it. Although it was a very tough game to play, the team deserved to win.”
Atlético’s win isn’t the storyline right now, however. It’s the call at the end of the game that allowed Ottawa to score their third goal. The assistant referee put his flag up on a play that appeared to the close for offside, but Gonzalez says that the flag went up for a handball, and there was no offside to speak of on the play.
“I think it was a great call from the referees,” Gonzalez said. “I think that most of the time when we talk about the referees, it’s because they made a mistake. That was a very difficult decision to take. I was beside [the assistant referee], and I knew it was a handball previously off the defender. The assistant referee called this handball, and the principal referee took the advantage to keep on going, so it was a great decision, because of course it was not offside, that’s not what the assistant referee called.”
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Gonzalez commends the officials for taking their time in the final minutes of the contest. Atlético was on the wrong end of a critical call just minutes prior, to give HFX a penalty, and the head referee took his time to make the decision, ultimately the right one in Gonzalaz’s eyes. The same can be said about the handball at the end of the game, he believes.
“This is a team sport where we play 11 players, but the referees are also a team,” Gonzalez said. “They have to help each other, and today, they did it. The decision for a penalty was one where we could all see that he waited for some more information because he didn’t have it clear, and he took his time on the last decision, and I think that both are the right decision. I saw it from far away, but maybe it was a penalty, and I’m sure that the last goal was not offside.”
But when it’s all said and done, the controversy surrounding the ending of the game will do nothing to change the result, and Ottawa has banked three points for themselves in the table.
“It’s a massive win,” Gonzalez said. “It’s a statement, because, at the end of the day, we have fewer games to play, and we have a big gap to fifth position. Although Pacific and Forge have games in hand, we have the same amount of points as them, so we cannot forget that. We are in a brilliant situation and we knew that this last third of the season was going to be a very tough part of the season because nobody wins easily. From now on, every game is going to be like a final, and every opponent is going to do tough work so that you cannot win easily.”
“I’m very proud of the capacity of the team to bounce back from a defeat after a very long trip from Victoria. There was no time to prepare, only time to rest and recover. I’m very happy to achieve the three points today.”
Ottawa will now only have a short rest period before embarking on another long travel day to Calgary, where they will take on Cavalry on Sunday. It’s another important game for both teams, as they are separated by just one point in the standings.
“I think we have to enjoy the victory, I think that’s very important,” Gonzalez said. “From Thursday, we will start thinking about Cavalry, and that’s going to be a tough game because they have all week to prepare, also we have a long trip to Calgary. The reality is that victories and winning makes you be near to winning again, so in two days, we will be prepared to do a good job in Calgary.”
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