June 16th, 2024

Bernardeschi scores three goals as rampant Toronto FC thumps CF Montreal 5-1

By Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press on May 18, 2024.

Toronto FC forward Federico Bernardeschi (10) scores as CF Montreal forward Ariel Lassiter (11) and defender Joel Waterman (16) defend during first half MLS soccer action in Toronto, Saturday, May 18, 2024. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Katsarov

TORONTO – Federico Bernardeschi scored a hat trick and fellow Italian Lorenzo Insigne had two assists as Toronto FC humbled an injury-ravaged CF Montreal 5-1 in Major League Soccer play Saturday.

The stylish Bernardeschi, sporting new bleached cornrows, scored in the 12th, 58th and 60th minutes on a night Montreal fans will want to forget. Matty Longstaff and Prince Owusu also scored for Toronto (7-6-1) before a jubilant announced crowd of 28,261 at BMO Field.

Down 5-0, Sunusi Ibrahim pulled one back for Montreal (3-7-3).

With 22 points, Toronto has matched its entire total from last season when it finished last in the league at 4-20-10.

Toronto was firing on all cylinders with the Italians leading the way. After being blanked for 19 straight outings – dating back to a two-goal performance in a 3-2 loss to Montreal last August – Bernardeschi now has seven goals in his last four games.

It was all Toronto from the get-go with the home side leading 3-0 after just 19 minutes, clearly in a different gear than Montreal. Toronto launched 13 shots in the first half alone, with six on target (compared to six shots and three on target for Montreal).

Montreal has now conceded 31 goals in 13 games – and 15 in its last four league outings.

Toronto went into the weekend play seven points and seven places ahead of 13th-place Montreal in the Eastern Conference.

Coming off a mid-week 3-1 defeat at the hands of visiting Columbus, Montreal has now lost four straight in league play and won just one of its last 11 outings (1-7-3) in all competitions.

Toronto had lost two straight, including a mid-week 2-0 defeat in Nashville that saw TFC without coach John Herdman and nine players due to injury and suspension. Toronto had won five straight in all competitions before that.

Saturday marked the first time Owusu, Bernardeschi and Insigne had started together since March 16 and Montreal had no answers for the trio.

Toronto went ahead in the sixth minute with a deft Insigne pass finding Tyrese Spicer behind the defence on the left flank. The rookie from Trinidad and Tobago threaded a cross between goalkeeper Jonathan Sirois and Joel Waterman to an open Longstaff with an empty goal in front of him.

It was the third goal in five games in all competitions for the former Newcastle man

Bernardeschi made it 2-0 in the 13th minute, taking a long pass from Deybi Flores with nary a defender in sight before roofing a left-footed rocket.

Owusu added to the lead in the 19th minute as Montreal was punished attempting to pass the ball out of the back. Waterman tried to find Mathieu Choiniere with a pass that the midfielder was unable to coral in the penalty box. The ball went instead to Insigne, who fed Owusu in front for his sixth goal of the season.

Montreal had a chance in first-half stoppage time but Ariel Lassiter’s shot, off a free kick from outside the penalty box, went just wide.

The visitors had a glorious chance early in the second half with two unmarked attackers in front of goal, only to have goalkeeper Sean Johnson get a touch to the ball to deflect it just out of danger,

Bernardeschi made it 4-0 in the 58th minute, curling in a ball directly into goal with Sirois unable to come out for fear Owusu got his head to it. Two minutes later the Italian struck again, knocking in a Derrick Etienne Jr. cross when the Montreal defence failed to clear the ball.

Ibrahim put Montreal on the board in the 67th minute, taking a feed from George Campbell after Bernardeschi lost possession.

The two teams had met 33 times previously in regular-season play with each recording 14 wins. There had been five ties.

But Montreal was unbeaten in the last seven meetings (6-0-1) with Toronto last winning in September 2020 (2-1 at Stade Saputo). TFC’s last victory on home soil was August 2019 (2-1).

Montreal’s lengthy injury list included Matias Coccaro, Raheem Edwards, Ousman Jabang, Lassi Lappalainen, Josef Martinez, Mahala Opoku, Nathan Saliba and Mason Toye.

Toronto was missing the injured Jonathan Osorio, Kevin Long, Shane O’Neill, Brandon Servania. In an ‘only-in-MLS’ situation, Richie Laryea managed to be both injured and suspended.

Herdman made five changes from the injury-depleted Nashville game with Johnson, Bernardeschi and Owusu returning from suspension. Insigne captained the side in Osorio’s absence, making his first start after two cameos off the bench following an eight-game injury absence.

Montreal, which made five changes to its mid-week lineup against Columbus, had five Canadians in its starting lineup compared to none for Toronto.

Fans in the south stand unfurled a banner before the game saying: “At the end of the day, we have an MLS Cup and Montreal doesn’t.” An even larger banner was in the form of a social media-style zero-star review of CF Montreal.

UP NEXT

Toronto takes a 3-0 lead over Ligue1 Quebec champion CS Saint-Laurent into Tuesday’s return leg of their Canadian Championship quarterfinal at BMO Field before hosting FC Cincinnati next Saturday.

Montreal is also in cup action, hosting CPL champion Forge FC on Wednesday before welcoming Nashville SC on Saturday.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 18, 2024.

Follow @NeilMDavidson on X platform, formerly known as Twitter

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