Rhinos lead Impact 2-1
Series heads to Montreal for second leg
ROCHESTER, NY -- The Montreal Impact kicked off the 2003 A-League playoffs with a 2-1 loss against the Rochester Rhinos, Friday, in front of 8,339 spectators at Frontier Field.
Stoian Mladenov scored at the 8th minute of play on a penalty kick and set up Doug Miller’s goal at the 50th minute to give the Rhinos a 2-0 lead, but then Zé Roberto kept the series close by scoring at the 84th following a set up by Martin Nash.
To win this division final, a home-and-home, aggregate-goal series, coach Bob Lilley’s squad will therefore have to win by two goals in the return game, Sunday afternoon at Claude Robillard Stadium (4 pm, CJAD, CKAC). A one-goal win would also be enough to tie the series, and force both teams to go on to a 30-minute sudden-death overtime. If the two 15-minute periods remain scoreless, FIFA-style penalty kicks will follow.
"Zé Roberto’s goal could be the turning point, it makes a huge difference," said Lilley. "If we had been gone back to Montreal with a 2-0 deficit, we would have had to start taking big risks from the opening kick off. But now, we have time, we can play how we need to play — 90 minutes is a lot of time."
The Impact’s first good scoring chance only came at the 67th when Nash hit the post. The Montreal players, who had been outplayed until then, started to turn things around. Chris Lemire, who came into the game at the 67th, forced Billy Andracki to make two saves in a short span of time, and then Zé Roberto took advantage of a pass by Nash to place a high shot in the corner to the right of Andracki.
"The Rhinos played well, but they tried to sit on their 2-0 lead, and it didn’t work," added Lilley. "Players like Chris Lemire and Antonio Ribeiro came off the bench and did great, we pushed more players forward and we showed character by coming back with a goal. Now, we’ve gained a little momentum and they’re in somewhat of a precarious position."
The Montreal defense, the best in the A-League over the regular season with 21 goals allowed in 28 games, opened the door for the Rhinos in the opening minutes when Jason DiTullio layed the ball back to teammate Gabriel Gervais. Miller, Rochester’s leading scorer, came in to intercept the pass and broke away alone towards the net, but DiTullio came back and leaned into him, prompting referee Ken Heller to call a penalty kick.
Heller also ejected one player from each side on the play, following a heated exchange between Montreal defender Nevio Pizzolitto and Rochester forward Ian Fuller. Both teams played the last 80 minutes with 10 players aside.
Mladenov executed the PK cleanly, placing the ball to the right of goalkeeper Greg Sutton.
After the halftime break, Mladenov allowed Miller to get behind the Montreal defense and find himself alone with Sutton. The Impact ‘keeper came out but Miller, who scored 17 goals this season, lobbed the ball past the goal line.
ROC: Mladenov (pk) 8
ROC: Miller (Mladenov) 50
MON: Roberto (Nash) 84
ROC: Wilson 90
MON: Pizzolitto 6
ROC: Fuller 6
Referees: Ken Heller, Steve Karaduzovic, Lee Suckle, Dave Calitree