In need of a strong performance at home against Panama to put themselves in contention for World Cup qualification, Canada delivered just that and more with some of their more resounding and attack-minded soccer in months in a 4-1 win.
With the win, Canada leaped-frogged Panama in the final round of CONCACAF World Cup qualification standings. Canada now sits in third place with 10 points through six games.
The thousands of fans stranded outside BMO Field in Toronto with slow, winding lineups to get inside, missed John Herdman’s side’s underwhelming start. Canada’s lack of pressure on Panama’s ball carriers was alarming as Panama was able to make too many swift passes along the flank on a counter-attack. Canada’s defenders left Panama’s Rolando Blackburn relatively unmarked for a fifth-minute goal.
Jonathan David then found himself directly in front of the Panama goal in the eighth minute but he opted to pass the ball away.
But as he has done so many times before, Alphonso Davies helped wake Canada up from their slumber and changed the course of the game. Davies made plenty of penetrating runs throughout the center of the pitch, dragging multiple Panama defenders with him and acting as the central attacking threat Canada has often lacked throughout the first six qualifying matches.
Canada’s fighting spirit became evident when, to the delight of the fans that had finally made it into the stadium late in the first half, a near-brawl broke out. Canada’s Derek Cornelius, stretching near the corner of the pitch, refused to move when Panama’s Edgar Barcenas prepared to take a corner kick, which brought both teams off their respective benches.
After taking multiple corner kicks in a row and putting one directly on goal, Davies placed a corner kick perfectly and Tajon Buchanan deflected it into the goal and was credited as an own goal for Panama’s Michael Murillo.
And then, in the 66th minute, Davies scored not only one of the best goals of his career, but arguably one of the best in Canadian men’s national team history. With the ball slowly rolling out of bounds, Davies used his speed to chase it down, deflect it back inbounds and deftly through the legs of the approaching Panama defender. Davies continued towards the Panama goal, stopped in his tracks and fired a left-footed shot past goalkeeper Luis Mejia.
From there, the floodgates opened for Canada. Buchanan headed home an excellent Richie Laryea cross in the 71st minute for Canada’s third goal, and David finally broke out of his rut with a one-touch goal from in tight in the 78th minute.
(Photo: Vaughn Ridley / Getty Images)