TORONTO - Nigerian forward Chinonso Offor scored the winning goal in the 39th minute and CF Montreal held on to defeat Toronto FC 2-1 in Canadian Championship quarterfinal play Tuesday.

Toronto dug itself a hole late in the first half and could not climb out despite a better second half.

TFC had a chance to pull even in the 85th minute but Lorenzo Insigne, who had earlier scored for Toronto, hammered his free kick from just outside the penalty box into the Montreal wall. Three minutes later fellow Italian Federico Bernardeschi blasted a shot high.

After an uneventful start, there were three goals just before halftime before an announced crowd of 17,726 at BMO Field. Montreal scored the first two, taking advantage of poor Toronto coverage.

The run of goals started in the 35th minute after Bernardeschi's free kick from just outside the Montreal penalty box hit the defenders' wall. Montreal started a rapid counter-attack with a long ball up the middle to Romell Quioto. Toronto goalkeeper Sean Johnson got to the ball first but couldn't control it and Zachary Brault-Guillard, one of several chasing Montreal players, knocked the rebound in.

It was Montreal's first shot on target.

Four minutes later, Offor scored with a flying close-range header through Johnson's legs after Mathieu Choiniere found him with a beautiful curled cross. The goal came too easy with Toronto leaving Montreal too much time and space.

The home side answered in the 44th minute after substitute Jahkeele Marshall-Rutty sliced through the Montreal defence and fed Richie Laryea in the penalty box. The Toronto fullback sent a perfect cross in for Insigne, between defenders, to knock in.

It was the first goal conceded by Montreal since April 15 in a 1-0 loss to D.C. United - a shutout streak that stretched 448 minutes in all competitions.

Toronto (2-3-6) and Montreal (4-6-0) meet again Saturday in MLS action at Saputo Stadium. While both teams have 12 points in league play, Montreal is moving in the right direction while Toronto has yet to find its footing.

Forge FC of Hamilton beat Atletico Ottawa 3-2 in penalties in Tuesday's other Voyageur Cup quarterfinal. The teams were tied 1-1 after regulation time as Kyle Bekker scored in the 76th minute for Forge and Ollie Bassett scored for Atletico in the 88th minute. Montreal hosts CPL-side Forge in the May 23 semifinal.

On Wednesday, it's the Vancouver Whitecaps at York United FC in Toronto and TSS Rovers FC at Pacific FC in an all-B.C. matchup in Langford. TSS Rovers, a semi-pro side that plays in B.C. League1, upset the CPL's Valour FC 3-1 in the preliminary round.

The defending champion Whitecaps and runner-up Toronto had first-round byes.

Coming into Tuesday's contest, Montreal had won four straight in all competitions after a dismal 1-6-0 start to the season that saw the team fail to score in all six losses

The turnaround started April 18 with a 2-0 win over Vaughan SC in Canadian Championship preliminary-round play.

In contrast, TFC had won just one of its previous seven games (1-2-4).

Toronto was missing injured defenders Matt Hedges, Shane O'Neill and Cristian Gutierrez, midfielders Michael Bradley, Jonathan Osorio and Victor Vazquez, and forward Jordan Perruzza. Centre back Aime Mabika made his first start for Toronto.

Spanish midfielder Alonso Coello limped off in the 21st minute, adding to Toronto's injury list. TFC centre back Sigurd Rosted exited in the 80th minute after picking up a knock.

TFC started three Canadians, the minimum allowed under tournament rules. Montreal had five Canadian starters.

Rudy Camacho captained Montreal with Kenya veteran Victor Wanyama not dressing. Samuel Piette and Mason Toye were among the injured Montreal contingent. Camacho, normally at the heart of the Montreal back three, played in front of the backline with George Campbell at centre back.

Insigne led Toronto out in the absence of Bradley and Osorio, his normal stand-in.

Brandon Servania tested Montreal 'keeper Jonathan Sirois in the 14th minute, put through by a Bernardeschi pass. Sirois got a leg on the shot from a tight angle.

Johnson was called into action early in the second half, stopping a shot from Finnish international Lassi Lappalainen at the far post after a cross floated over the Toronto defence.

Toronto fans wanted a penalty when Montreal defender Joel Waterman and Toronto striker CJ Sapong tangled in the box but referee Yusri Rudolf saw nothing untoward.

Toronto coach Bob Bradley, looking for offence, replaced fullback Kobe Franklin with forward Deandre Kerr in the 59th minute. Moments later, Sapong had a glorious opportunity but couldn't get the ball out of his feet after Laryea danced into the penalty box.

It's the 13th year Toronto and Montreal have met in the Voyageurs Cup competition. Coming into Tuesday's match, TFC held a 12-5-5 advantage (the competition has sometime featured two-legged series) and was undefeated in 12 meetings at BMO Field.


This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 9, 2023.