Some Canadian Men’s soccer history was made on Tuesday, as Alphonso Davies and Milan Borjan met in Champions League play, the 1st time that two Canadians had ever faced off in the competition.
A small piece of Canadian Men’s soccer history was made in Serbia.
For the first time in Canadian’s Men’s National Team history, two Canadian Male players faced off in a Champions League tie, with Alphonso Davies’s Bayern Munich taking on Milan Borjan’s Red Star Belgrade in Belgrade. After Ashley Lawrence of Paris Saint Germain and Kadeisha Buchanan of Olympique Lyon met in the UEFA Women’s Champions League final in 2017, becoming the first set of Canadians to do so, Davies and Borjan’s first clash in the Men’s game added another big moment for Canadian soccer fans to celebrate.
And it would be Davies that would get to smile the biggest between the two on the occasion, as his side won handily by a scoreline of 6-0. After a strong 1st half from Milan Borjan, he was unable to stem a second-half Lewandowski rampage, as the Polish international scored 4 goals in 14 minutes to open the floodgates in Belgrade.
The game started off busy for Borjan, who faced a heavy Bayern offensive, kicked off with a nice Robert Lewandowski strike early on from distance. Lewandowski, arguably the world’s most in-form player right now, nearly found the target soon after, but he surprisingly snatched at a wide-open breakaway with Borjan coming out to meet him.
The first half pressure continued for Bayern, as they soon opened the scoring through Leon Gortezka, who latched onto a lovely curled cross from Phillipe Coutinho. After having made a couple of saves off of Kingsley Coman and Lewandowski in the minutes leading up to the goal, it was a tough break for Borjan, who was left to watch the perfect Goretzka ball sail into the top corner.
Goretzka nearly added to his bank of goals a few minutes later, as an Alphonso Davies cross deflected to him at the top of the box, but his powerful volley was strongly palmed over by Borjan to keep it 1-0.
The half would finish that way, as despite what appeared to initially be a good goal from Lewandowski off a nice sequence with midfielder Corentin Tolisso, it was ruled off for handball, leaving them with to head into the break with the 1-0 scoreline intact.
For the Canadians, it capped the end of two solid first-half performances, as they both looked comfortable in the game. There wasn’t much Borjan could do on the lone goal he did concede, but he did well on the 5 he did save, marking a strong half. For Davies, he didn’t push forward much, but he still had 1 shot and added 1 key pass, while remaining solid defensively in part to his team-high 3 tackles.
After Bayern controlled the play for much of the 1st half, things remained the same early on into the 2nd, as they kept up the pressure on Red Star. They started things off with a nice sequence of play that led to a solid Goretzka strike, and that revamped pressure paid off, as Lewandowski found a way to win a penalty off of a Red Star handball. He then stood up and took the spot-kick, making no mistake with his finish, slotting the ball into the lower right corner after a stuttering run-up.
The rough start to the second half continued to sink Red Star, as the play seemed to tilt towards their end of the pitch. Off of a corner, Coutinho whipped in a strong cross, finding the head of Tolisso, who smartly flicked the ball on. It fell right to the feet of Lewandowski, who easily tapped home for his second in a matter of minutes, making amends for his earlier misses on the day.
Lewandowski, seemingly urged on by the near-misses in the 1st half, soon completed the hat-trick. Bayern right back Benjamin Pavard made a bursting run forward, before slotting in a pinpoint cross, one that Lewandowski beat Borjan to at the near post to nod into an empty net. After a strong first half from Borjan in the Red Star goal, he couldn’t catch a break in the second, as every chance seemed to end up in the back of his goal.
Borjan’s night wouldn’t get any easier, as Lewandowski continued his second-half rampage, as he soon added his 4th in 14 minutes to make it 5-0. Played in by Ivan Perisic, he found himself all alone with Borjan, making no mistake with a calm finish, as the miserable second-half for the Canadian keeper failed to cease.
Luckily for Borjan, Lewandowski’s night ended soon after, as he was given some rest by Bayern manager Hansi Flick. The chances didn’t end there, however, as Borjan had to stand strong to keep out a Tolisso strike from in close, pushing the ball up onto the crossbar to keep things at 5-0.
But even despite the departure of Lewandowski, Borjan’s rough night was far from over. Tolisso, seemingly motivated by the earlier save by Borjan, found himself alone with the keeper once again, this time making no mistake with the low-corner finish. It was set up nicely by second-half substitute Ivan Perisic, who pressed the Red Star defenders high up the pitch, forcing a costly giveaway, one that ended up in the back of their goal.
Almost mercifully, the final whistle was blown soon after, marking the end of the historic Canadian clash. For Borjan, it was far from a memorable evening, as his strong 1st half would be erased from the memory of most with Lewandowski’s exploits, with his defensive line not offering him much in terms of support.
For Davies, it was a good evening, as while he wasn’t super noticeable, he did a good job in helping keep the clean sheet. He made a nice last-man tackle in the second half on a good Red Star chance, finishing with 4 tackles total on the evening, along with his 1 key pass and 1 shot. He was a presence going forward, as he would often support the Bayern attack by adding numbers to overwhelm the hosts, allowing space for some of his teammates to operate in.
With the loss, Red Star’s Champions League dreams came to an end, while Bayern reinforced their place on top of Group B. Luckily for Red Star, they still sit in 3rd, meaning that Europa League knockouts remain possible, something that they will achieve with a win or a draw against Olympiacos in the last round of fixtures for this group.
After a year of 1sts for Canadian Men’s Soccer, it was another strong moment, what to be looked back fondly on in the future.
Cover Photo by: Jeremy Reper/Canada Soccer