Atlético Ottawa continued their surge up the Canadian Premier League table on Friday night, beating Valour FC 3-1 at IG Field to climb up into second place.
The visitors wasted no time finding the back of the net, doing so in brilliant fashion less than ten minutes after kickoff. After creating some space for himself on the right side of the penalty area, Jean-Aniel Assi played a low cross to the feet of Sam Salter. Salter redirected the ball on target with a backheel, catching Rayane Yesli off guard at his near post to open the scoring.
A few minutes later, Walter Ponce was in alone on goal after running onto a pass between the Ottawa defenders. With only the rushing Nathan Ingham to beat, Ponce tried to fire the ball into the bottom right corner with the outside of his foot, striking the post. The Chilean attacker had another opportunity in the 19th minute, lunging to redirect a low cross into the box on target, but Ingham reacted quickly to make the save.
Salter had an opportunity to double the lead in the 25th minute, making a run in behind the Valour backline on a pass that unlocked the Winnipeg side’s line of defence, but his low shot on the breakaway was saved well by Yesli.
Ponce should have probably had several goals on his own in the first half, and was unable to score on two more occasions within the first 45. In the 31st minute, less than a yard away from goal, Ponce rushed his shot toward a wide open goal and it popped straight up into the air, landing on the netting on top of the goal. It was as good a chance as any to equalize for the Winnipeggers, five minutes before he had another opportunity — heading another cross from Pacifique Niyongabire on target, denied by Ingham.
Ottawa made Valour pay for their missed opportunities, doubling their advantage late in the half. After charging at the Valour backline, Gianni Dos Santos cut the ball back across the box to Ollie Bassett, whose volley on target slipped through the hands of Yesli to make it 2-0 to the visitors.
Not letting their missed opportunities in the first half faze them, Valour came out well to start the second half, getting three shots away in the first ten minutes. Ponce missed the target high and wide a few minutes after play resumed, a few minutes before Kian Williams tested Ingham with a cross-goal shot from inside the box. Kevin Rendon also tried to test Ingham from long range, but the Ottawa netminder got down to for a relatively simple catch.
Bassett found the back of the net again in the 68th minute, this time from a free kick. With Yesli not looking at the reigning Player of the Year, Bassett decided to try and test him at his near post directly from the set piece. Despite the Valour goalkeeper getting a touch to it, the curling effort found the top left corner of the net, giving Atlético Ottawa a comfortable 3-0 lead.
It was Bassett’s tenth goal of the season, tying him with Terran Campbell for the league lead.
Determined not to be shut out on home turf, Marcello Polisi pulled one back for Valour five minutes later, with a powerful strike from distance. He picked out the top left corner with a perfectly-struck shot, cutting his side’s deficit to two with what will go down as a Goal of the Year nominee come the end of the season.
The goal was too little too late for the home side, however. Nathan Ingham came up with another huge save in the 82nd minute, diving to his left to turn away an effort on target from Juan Pablo Sánchez, and that’s the closest Valour would come to getting themselves back into the match.
They remain eight points out of a playoff spot, while Ottawa jump up into second place in the table, and just one back of league leaders Pacific FC with a second consecutive victory on the road.
10′ — Sam Salter (Atlético Ottawa)
41′ — Ollie Bassett (Atlético Ottawa)
68′ — Ollie Bassett (Atlético Ottawa)
73′ — Marcello Polisi (Valour FC)
29′ — Yellow: Jordan Haynes (Valour FC)
55′ — Yellow: Matteo de Brienne (Valour FC)