On a large stage before a large crowd, the man on the marquee from Canada surrendered. And how.
Alphonso Davies scored an extraordinary goal to open the floodgates midway through the second half on Wednesday as Canada managed a 4-1 victory over Panama in the CONCACAF World Cup qualifiers.
The goal epitomized the 20-year-old Bayern Munich star, showcasing his speed, acceleration and style. Not many people on the planet could have rated it.
He caught Drake’s attention. Canada coach John Herdman said the world hip-hop star texted Davies after the game, saying he wanted to be together.
The Canadians, ranked 51st, had No. 68 Panama under the cosh, but did not get ahead until the 66th minute when a speedy Davies came out of nowhere down the right flank to steal the ball from under the feet of the defender Harold Cummings, who thought the ball was about to go out.
Davies got to the ball before he did, acrobatically using his trailing foot to keep the ball in play and push it ahead of him, then danced around defender Fidel Escobar and, using Tajon Buchanan as a decoy, fired a low shot that left goalkeeper Luis. Mejía rooted in place for a 2-1 lead. It was Davies’ 10th goal in his 28th game for Canada.
The Canadians, unbeaten 2-0-4 in the final qualifying round in the region, were back on the offensive after the goal.
Buchanan made it 3-1 in the 71st, and headed home with a cross from Richie Laryea for his third goal for Canada. Jonathan David then scored in the 78th minute, setting the ball up on a counterattack from a Davies pass with the Panama defense in disarray. It was the 17th goal in 22 international appearances for the Lille forward.
Davies left in the 81st minute to a standing ovation. Shirtless, he celebrated by waving a Canadian flag to fans afterward.
He shared the congratulations in a post-game interview. “Everybody put a shift tonight,” he said.
Davies’ influence on and off the field continues to grow.
“Phonzie is a great influencer in this group. He’s a humble guy, but when he speaks, he reminds us of (Christine) Sinclair. When you speak, people listen, ”Herdman said. who coached Sinclair and Canadian women before taking over the men’s program.
BMO Field was at full capacity, with an announced attendance of 26,622 after local authorities eased restrictions related to the pandemic. The south stand was a red sea, full of waving flags.
They got to see a thoroughbred game played at a breakneck pace. Unbridled Canada dictated most of the tempo with Davies, starting up front with David leading the attack. Davies was electric, tormented defenders, and became even more influential when Herdman shifted him to the wing from a more central position.
The Canadians have now taken seven of the possible nine points at home. And they’ve gotten the job done on the road, scoring points through sweepstakes in the US, Mexico, and Jamaica.
Herdman got what he wanted: a dominant performance at home.
“That was a performance as good or as strong as the one I have experienced or been a part of,” he said.
Canada’s next two games are at home as well, against Costa Rica on November 12 and Mexico on November 16, both at Commonwealth Stadium in Edmonton.
Wednesday’s game was the third in an international window in which the Canadians drew 1-1 in Mexico and 0-0 in Jamaica.
While Panama (2-2-2) held on by a thread for much of the game, the visitors opened the scoring.
Canada started brilliantly, but found themselves down 1-0 early after a counterattack down the right side. Canada came up short at the back with winger Laryea on the field and Kamal Miller struggling to get back into position. A low center by Michael Murillo found Blackburn among the Canadian centers and Rolando Blackburn, who plays for a Bolivian club called The Strongest, took advantage of it.
Canada regrouped and attacked with enthusiasm, tying the game in the 28th minute on a Davies corner, the latest in a series of them. Buchanan shot high, but the ball was declared an own goal, coming out of Murillo’s upper body.
Panama began to establish some possession in the second half, keeping the ball away from Canada. Then Davies worked his magic and the game changed.
The benches were emptied almost at halftime after a melee when Panama was slow to take a corner. The Canadian substitutes were warming up in the vicinity and were offended by Panama’s tactics, prompting a scrum that eventually dissipated after some shoving and yelling.
There was more bad blood after the final whistle with players having to be separated. Laryea, whose blood is no stranger to boiling, was furious about something.
“This is life or death for us,” Herdman said. “We will fight. Will we fight to the end for this country? Our purpose is bigger and stronger than any other CONCACAF team. We haven’t been to a World Cup since 1986. These teams have. So when you try to take that away from us, we are entering, everybody “.
“It is not pleasant to see and I do not approve of what happens,” he added. “But at the same time, our country needs us to fight. We cannot back down at any time. “
Canada outshots Panama 9-3 (4-1 in shots on target) and had eight corners against one from Panama in the first half alone. The final shot count was 16-7 (8-2 in shots on target) for the Canadians.
In other games on Wednesday, the 13th-ranked United States (3-1-2) rallied to beat No. 44 Costa Rica (1-2-3) 2-1 in Columbus, Ohio, and No. 59 Jamaica (1-3-2) beat No. 63 Honduras (0-3-3) 2-0. No. 9 Mexico (4-0-2) beat No. 65 El Salvador (1-3-2) 2-0 in the last match.
The victory took Canada past Panama to third place with 10 points in the standings. Mexico leads with 14 points, ahead of the United States with 11.
In March, the top three teams in the eight-team CONCACAF round-robin book their tickets to Qatar 2022. The fourth-place team will participate in an intercontinental playoff to see who joins them.
Canada opened the final qualifying round in September with a 1-1 draw at home with Honduras before drawing the USA 1-1 in Nashville and shutting out El Salvador 3-0 at BMO Field.
Herdman made six changes to his starting 11, which came into the game with a combined 218 games, with Jonathan Osorio representing 46 of them.
Laryea, Buchanan and Steven Vitoria returned after missing the Jamaica game due to yellow card suspension. Stephen Eustace also returned, after an appearance from the bench on Sunday.
Miller and David Wotherspoon also entered. Vitoria was the captain of the team.
Canada was left without the injured Atiba Hutchinson, forwards Cyle Larin, Lucas Cavallini and Junior Hoilett. Goalkeeper Milan Borjan recovers from COVID-19.
Panama was coming off a 1-0 victory over the United States on Sunday in Panama City, just its second victory over the Americans in 24 games (2-16-6) and the first in the World Cup qualifying phase ( 1-6-2).
He has also registered home ties with Costa Rica (0-0) and Mexico (1-1). On the road, they beat Jamaica 3-0 and lost 1-0 in El Salvador.
Canada improved to 4-1-6 all-time against Panama.