There will be a new Canadian champion crowned this year.

Ayo Akinola scored twice, while Jesús Jiménez and Alejandro Pozuelo also had goals as Toronto FC edged CF Montreal 4-0 at BMO Field on Wednesday to advance to the 2022 Canadian Championship Final and eliminate the 2021 champions.

“We came out on the front foot,” Akinola said. “We attacked them and put pressure on them and we didn’t want to give them a chance to breathe.”

Akinola opened the scoring in the 40th minute for the Reds, when he finished off a three-touch play towards the goal started by Jiménez. The striker found Luca Petrasso on his left back. Petrasso passed the ball to Akinola, who easily beat Montreal goalkeeper James Pantemis to go up 1-0.

TFC had several chances before Akinola’s first goal.

Jayden Nelson nearly opened the scoring for Toronto FC in the first minute when he broke away from the Montreal defense and fired a right footed shot from outside the box to the far post. He also had a shot late in the first half.

Montreal’s best scoring chance of the first half came in the 20th minute when Montreal captain Samuel Piette’s chance from inside the box was blocked by a TFC defender just in front of goal.

Toronto FC led in shooting, 7-2, in the first half, although Montreal had 57 percent of the ball.

“We had a good first half,” CF Montreal head coach Wilfried Nancy said of his team’s play. “They scored their goal, but before that we were pretty good.”

In the second half, Montreal made two substitutions to set up an attacking formation, but were caught on the wrong end of a turnover as they pressed for an equalizer. Pozuelo carried the ball onto the field and found Akinola, whose shot from the center of the box went over the crossbar and into the bottom of the goal in the 54th minute.

Akinola is finding his form after missing nearly a year with a torn ACL in his knee. The Canadian striker admitted it has been a challenge finding his game since he returned in early May and was not entirely satisfied with his effort against Montreal, despite his two-goal performance.

“Goals gave me a confidence boost, but if I’m realistic, overall I thought I didn’t do a good job,” Akinola said. “I just gave away too many balls, didn’t connect, didn’t get too involved in the game, so that’s on me. But when I got my chances, I buried them.”

Montreal shot on goal five minutes after Akinola’s second goal. Second-half substitute Kei Kamara fired a shot from inside the box that was deflected by Toronto FC goalkeeper Quentin Westberg.

Jimenez scored in the 75th minute when Toronto FC’s corner kick opportunity bounced off Pantemis, leaving an easy touch for the TFC striker.

Pozuelo scored three minutes later and made it 4-0 TFC, when he went into the net with ease and fired a ball past Pantemis.

“He’s probably hit rock bottom there,” Montreal defender Alistair Johnson said after the game. “You lose a game to your local rivals 4-0 in a game where you’re not sure the score line reflects that, but at the same time they put four on us and we didn’t score anything on them. It was ‘Not good enough’ our part”.

Toronto FC is one win away from claiming a record ninth Voyageurs Cup. They earned their eighth title earlier this month by winning the two-year delayed 2020 Canadian Championship. For a team trying to rebuild after a difficult MLS season in 2021, the Reds have found solace in the Canadian Championship, even though it has been a challenging season in the league.

They are ranked 13th in the MLS Eastern Conference standings with a record of 4-8-3.

“We all know that the work to become a better team is ongoing,” said TFC head coach Bob Bradley. “In the middle of all that, when you can have a night where there’s a trophy at the end and everyone’s excited, yeah, that’s important.”

TFC will play the winner of the other semi-final between Vancouver Whitecaps and Canadian Premier League team York United FC. The championship is scheduled for July.



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