Gabriel Bitar scored his third goal for Vancouver FC in 25 minutes of play time against York United on Friday, Aug. 25, but it wasn’t quite enough, with York picking up a 2-1 victory and a crucial three points in the Canadian Premier League’s playoff race.
Miki Cantave assisted Bitar to help him secure his third goal in the first half.
Bitar had scored his two previous goals in the space of 11 minutes against rival Pacific FC on Saturday, Aug. 19, to turn the game around and give Vancouver their first-ever Salish Sea Derby win.
But then, York’s Mo Babouli equalized Bitar’s effort from the penalty spot in the 69th minute, and Austin Ricci came off the bench to fire a strike past Callum Irving for the winner.
For the moment, York occupy the league’s fifth and final playoff spot, ahead of Halifax Wanderers on total wins, which is the first tiebreaker.
Vancouver, meanwhile, remain 12 points out of the playoffs with just seven matches remaining.
Vancouver FC manager Afshin Ghotbi was frustrated by the penalty decision that led to Babouli’s equalizer from the spot, but also said that it is a lesson in making sure his side finishes off opponents. In particular, he highlighted a 76th-minute chance for Alejandro Díaz that was fired directly at York keeper Adisa De Rosario.
“Those are the chances you have to finish on away matches to get all three points,” said Afshin Ghotbi. “When you are 0-1, and you keep the opponent sniffing that they have a chance to come back then human error can take place on all sides and that can change the game.”
Ghotbi said he “liked the discipline tactically that [we] showed, we stayed within the game plan and I think the first goal was a perfect team goal, defending well as a team, pressing high, winning the ball and a great finish by [Bitar].”
Vancouver central defender Rocco Romeo said “when you keep on getting that consistent pressure coming down it gets draining, tiring, honestly. But I think we did well with that throughout the game. The chances that [York] got were either off target or Callum had a pretty easy save to make. But it is just unfortunate about the result, because I think we deserved so much more.”
Next, Vancouver will host Forge on Sunday, Sept. 3 at 2 p.m.