It was not as pretty as they had hoped, but the Canadians got it.
The men’s national soccer team scored twice in the span of six minutes in the second half on Friday night and came away with a 3-0 victory in World Cup qualifying action over a Cuban side that appeared at BMO Field with just 11 players.
Canada now travels to Hondurus on Tuesday to wrap up this round of qualifying where it will need at least a tie to move on.
Stephen Hart was happy with the win but frustrated wih his club’s lack of finishing on a night when they out-chanced their under-manned guests 35-7.
“I thought we put them under a lot of pressure but the goals didn’t come,” he said, at the post-game press conference.
“I think we began to doubt ourselves a little bit, maybe lose a little bit of discipline.”
Tosaint Ricketts scored what amounted to the game-winner in the 15th minute when he tapped in Ante Jazic’s low cross coming in from the left of the Cuban box.
Eintracht Frankfurt striker Olivier Occean found himself alone in front of goal in the 4th minute, but his strike was right at keeper Odelin Molina.
Six minutes later the ball came to Ricketts in the middle of the box on a centering pass from Burnley F.C.’s David Edgar, but like Occean he wired it right into the waiting arms of Molina.
The Canadians dominated the possession and chances in the first half to the tune of nine shots-on-target to one, but struggled to find that second goal to really crush the Cuban spirit.
“You get frustrated when you have the chances but things aren’t quite going your way,” said midfielder Will Johnson., in the hallway outside of the lockey room.
“We were putting in a significant amount of effort, but our sharpness and clinical finishing around the box was not quite there for us.”
Atiba Hutchinson sent in Johnson with a clear shot from the right of the box in the first minute after the break, but his shot was rocketed high above the net.
In the 57th minute, the visitors almost got an unlikely equalizer when Jose Macias’s long shot beat Hirschfeld to his right, but also just beat the far post.
A vicious tackle on Hainault in the 71st put the Cubans down to 10 men as referee Javier Santos of Puerto Rico sent Roberto Linares off with a red card.
Johnson finally got Canada’s second a minute later when he headed home a free ball that had been deflected high in the air.
Occean got sent off in the aftermath of the goal, as he had allegedly retaliated violently after being pushed to the ground by a Cuban defender.
He will miss Canada’s final qualifying around with a one-game suspension that comes automatically with receiving a red card.
“These kinds of things come with [soccer],” said Occean’s strike-partner Ricketts, who plys his trade in Romania.
“I think we just have to come in with a good mentality, we know what we have to do and we just have to get the job done without him.”
Edgar put the match on ice in the 78th, launching home a Jazic cross from the left with an inch-perfect volley.
“I thought in the second half we got it right,” Hart said.
“We moved the ball much more patiently, tried to open them up and then take our chances.”
Notes: 17,712 fans were in attendance … Canada will finish the third round of qualifying on Tuesday in Honduras … game-time temperature reached as low as 4 degrees celcius