The MLS season came to an emphatic end in Canada as the Montreal Impact took the three points in the 401 Derby.
Didier Drogba inspired the hosts to a 2-1 win after going 0-1 down moments before the break. A brace within the space of 90 seconds from the former Chelsea striker secured the win for Montreal as Toronto FC failed to find an equaliser.
Sebastian Giovinco tested Montreal keeper Evan Bush early on in the fourth minute when the Italian forward fired from outside the box, catching Bush off guard with a dipping strike. However, Bush reacted well to the danger, and parried the ball out for an early corner.
Montreal had a chance of their own three minutes later when the ball fell to Nigel Reo-Coker on the D of the penalty box, but the former West Ham player’s volley was an easy save for Toronto net minder Chris Konopka.
The 401 Derby is know for its end-to-end action, and end-to-end action is what we got when Konopka was called into action again when Dider Drogba drove a powerful free-kick from 30-yards out. However, Konopka was down quickly to get a hand on Drogba’s strike, and divert the ball out for a corner.
On the other end of the pitch, Giovinco was again causing problems for Bush when Robbie Findley played in the number 10 with a simple pass, but Bush brilliantly saved his shot from close range.
Findley was enjoying the space down the right wing when the winger almost assisted Jozy Altidore for the opening goal in the 18th minute. Findley played in a good cross down the right side, but neither Giovinco nor Altidore could connect with the ball, and it rolled our for a goal kick.
The Atomic Ant continued to pester the Montreal goal in the 30th minute when he fired from outside the box after being laid off by Altidore, but his shot flew inches wide of the post.
Bush saved Montreal again moments later when Giovinco brilliantly dribbled down the left wing, before picking out Findley inside the box with a good cross. Once again, Bush came to the rescue when he brilliantly saved the winger’s header by tipping the ball over the bar.
After a heroic display from Bush, Altidore finally managed to beat the keeper in the 44th minute. Giovinco worked his magic down the right win, before picking out Altidore from six-yards out, and the striker easily headed the ball past Bush to give the Reds a deserved lead going into the half.
Toronto’s dominance during the first half might have been their downfall as the second half was a completely different story. Konopka was forced into making a big save from Ignacio Piatti five minutes after the restart, and then Drogba’s rebound effort hit the frame of the bar from close range.
However, Drogba made up for his earlier miss as the striker drew Montreal level in the 54th minute. Piatti made a break down the right wing, before playing a great cross to Drogba, and the former Chelsea striker finished the move perfectly with an exquisite back-heel past Konopka, to make it 1-1.
Before Toronto could regroup, it was 2-1 to the hosts. Marco Donadel whipped in a low cross to Drogba inside the penalty box, and the striker managed to guide the ball into the bottom right corner past the reach of Konopka to score his second goal in a 90 second window. It also brought his tally up to 11 goals in 11 games.
The half belonged to the hosts, as the Toronto’s laps of concentration in the early stages of the match was ultimately what gave Montreal the lead. Konopka was at hand to stop Dominic Oduro from making it 3-1 in the 63rd minute with a great save.
Michael Bradley went close for the Reds in the 74th minute when after a good build-up from the visiting side, the captain fired the ball off the crossbar from range to keep the score at 2-1.
Toronto could have grabbed a point in the dying minutes of the game when Giovinco played Altidore through on goal, but the US international’s first touch was poor, and the danger was cleared by Laurent Ciman, allowing the Impact to hold on for the three points.
Both sides already claimed play-off spots coming into the match, but Montreal will be the higher seeded team as they finish the season in 3rd place in the Eastern Conference. Toronto, meanwhile, finish in 6th place as the Reds claim their first play-off spot ever. That of course means that these two will do it all over again in a do-or-die scenario on Thursday night at the Stade Saputo.