VANCOUVER – Cyle Larin may have scored the most important goal of his young career without even knowing that he was responsible for it.
Larin’s goal in the 38th minute was the difference on Friday night at BC Place as Canada beat Honduras 1-0 in FIFA World Cup qualifying action to pick up a crucial three points in front of 20,108 spectators at BC Place.
After a cross from the left flank towards the back post, Will Johnson headed the ball down towards goal and it deflected off Larin’s backside and past veteran Honduran goalkeeper Noel Valladares.
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“I didn’t know it went in off me. When I saw the replay, that’s when I knew,” said Larin, who called it the easiest goal he’ll ever score.
“I felt the defender on me when I was coming down. I had jumped pretty high and when I was coming down, I saw the net in front of me. I thought Will (Johnson) scored so I went to celebrate with him.”
It was Larin’s goal, the fourth of his international career, but much of the credit goes to Canadian newcomer Junior Hoilett as he started the play with a lovely run and cross from the left side.
Although he played in a friendly vs. Ghana last month in Washington, D.C., Hoilett was making his home debut after finally deciding that his international loyalties rested with Canada. Larin started the play by sending Hoilett on his way before the Queens Park Rangers winger swung in his decisive cross.
“(Larin’s) my roommate and we’ve been talking about how we wanted to play today and I hit him on the break and he put a great ball into my path,” said Hoilett with a hint of the London accent that’s come with playing most of his developing years and pro career in England.
“He put a great ball into my path and I put a great cross in for him to finish.”
The result helps to, at least somewhat, put to bed the disastrous 8-1 result the Canadians suffered at the hands of the Hondurans that ended their 2014 World Cup cycle. It also puts Canada on top of Group A alongside Mexico, who was a 3-0 winner over El Salvador earlier on Friday.
Honduras was expected to play more of a counterattacking game on the road in somewhat cooler conditions than they expected with the roof open at BC Place. Instead they came out pressing Canada early before backing off to get more compact at the back.
For Canadians Benito Floro, it was a fair result as the Reds pressed well and remained organized at the back, not giving Honduras many quality looks at goalkeeper Milan Borjan’s goal.
“Our flat four today played defensively correctly,” Floro said in his post-match press conference. “More important than that, they played the ball well and sent the ball well and just made one mistake in the first half.”
Johnson nearly did have a goal of his own just past the hour mark when his long range free kick looked bound for the goal but Valladares produced a spectacular save in getting his hand to it and redirecting the ball onto the post.
Johnson was one of a number of standout performers for the Canadians on Friday. Atiba Hutchinson showed why he’s Canada’s best player with confident possession of the ball with no panic when under pressure. Hoilett also demonstrated why he was coveted for so long by Canadian fans as he made some silky touches on the ball and displayed great pace on the left wing.
It was a case of points dropped when the two teams played to a scoreless draw at BMO Field in June of 2012. Canada deserved to win that day but couldn’t score and perhaps more than the 8-1 result, that game proved their downfall.
This time, however, they have the chance to grab Group A by the scruff of the neck as they now head down to Central America for a game against El Salvador on Tuesday night.
“We still have five games left but this is a fantastic result,” said defender Adam Straith, who acknowledged three points were mandatory on Friday night.
“We’re going to look to build off it, obviously. We have a quick turnaround and look forward to Tuesday now.”
Results are always difficult in that part of the world but El Salvador is in turmoil as many players are battling their FA, and another performance like Friday night’s would certainly put Canada in a good position with two games against Mexico to come in March.