In need of a strong performance at home against Panama to keep themselves in contention for World Cup qualification, Canada delivered in a 4–1 victory with some of their more prolific and attacking football in months.
With this win, Canada overtook Panama in the final round of the CONCACAF World Cup qualification standings. Canada are now third with 10 points from six matches.
Thousands of fans stuck outside BMO Field in Toronto missed John Herdman’s groundbreaking start to go inside with a slow, winding lineup. Canada’s lack of pressure on Panama’s ball carriers was alarming as Panama was able to make very rapid passes along the flank in a counter-attack. Canada’s defenders left Panama’s Rolando Blackburn relatively unmarked for a fifth-minute goal.
Jonathan David found himself directly in front of the Panama goal in the eighth minute but opted to pass the ball.
But as he has done many times before, Alfonso Davies helped Canada wake up from their slumber and changed the course of the game. Davies scored a lot of penetrating runs in the center of the pitch, pulling several Panama defenders with him and acting as a central attacking threat that Canada has often lost in the first six qualifying matches.
Canada’s fighting spirit was evident when, much to the delight of fans arriving at the stadium at the end of the first half, a near-controversy broke out. Canada’s Derek Cornelius stretched near the corner of the pitch as Panama’s Edgar Barcenas prepared to take a corner kick, refusing to budge, leaving both teams off their respective benches.
After taking several consecutive corner kicks and placing one straight on goal, Davies placed a corner kick perfectly and Tajon Buchanan deflected it into goal and was credited as an own goal for Panaman’s Michael Murillo. .
And then, in the 66th minute, Davis scored not only one of the best goals of his career, but one of the best in the history of the Canadian men’s national team. With the ball slowly rolling out of bounds, Davis used his momentum to chase it down, deflecting it back inside and deftly through the legs of the oncoming Panama defender. Davis continued towards the Panama goal, stopped in his track and fired a left-footed shot past goalkeeper Luis Mejia.
From there, the floodgates opened to Canada. Buchanan led an excellent Richie Laria cross in the 71st minute for Canada’s third goal, and David eventually broke out of his rhythm in the 78th minute with a one-touch goal from Tait.
This story will be updated.
(Photo: Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images)