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Fort Lauderdale, FL, USA; FC Cincinnati midfielder Joseph-Claude Gyau (13) protects the ball from CF Montreal midfielder Djordje Mihailovic (8) during the first half at DRV PNK Stadium. Photo taken May 22, 2021.

Sam Navarro/USA TODAY Sports via Reuters

CF Montreal was hoping to bounce back Saturday after giving up the deciding goal in injury time last week against Atlanta United.

Instead FC Cincinnati used a similar plan at DRV PNK Stadium and it left the Canadian side teeming with frustration after points slipped away once again.

Gustavo Vallecilla scored the winner on a brilliant diving header in the 86th minute to help Cincinnati to a 2-1 victory for its first win of the Major League Soccer season.

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“It’s frustrating when you put it all on the field and you give up the game like that,” said Montreal midfielder Djordje Mihailovic, who opened the scoring in the 56th minute.

Jurgen Locadia pulled Cincinnati (1-3-1) even in the 70th minute at Montreal’s temporary Florida home. Cincinnati started the day in last place in the Eastern Conference standings.

“We didn’t respect the game,” said Montreal head coach Wilfried Nancy. “Today, there was a lack of humility. I told the players what I thought and again, we have to be better. Only work will make a difference.

“We have to repeat the actions we see in our practice sessions with high intensity. We know what we are doing and we will keep doing it.”

Montreal (2-3-2) has lost all three times it has faced Cincinnati, with the previous defeats coming in the visitors’ debut MLS season in 2019.

Both teams struggled to create scoring opportunities in the early going on a hot, sunny afternoon.

Using a 3-4-1-2 formation, Montreal tried to slowly build the play by focusing on possession rather than aggressiveness. Cincinnati, meanwhile, went with a 5-3-2 setup.

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Montreal’s Erik Hurtado had a decent chance in the 25th minute but Cincinnati goalkeeper Kenneth Vermeer made a diving save on a deflected strike from just inside the box.

Montreal had a decent spell of pressure late in the first half as play began to open up. Romell Quioto flashed some deft footwork to get a good chance but Vermeer cut down the angle and turned it away.

A glorious opportunity was wasted in the 45th minute as Quioto stunningly missed an open tap-in.

With Montreal on an open two-man break, Zachary Brault-Guillard fed a cross past a helpless Vermeer but Quioto one-timed the ball wide instead of into the empty net.

Some of his teammates put their hands on heads in disbelief. Nancy shook his head several times and rubbed his eyebrow as he paced the sideline.

Quioto atoned for the error early in the second half as he drew Vermeer and two defenders towards him before delivering a slick pass to Mihailovic for the opening goal.

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Cincinnati tied the game when Montreal couldn’t clear the ball after a corner kick. Geoff Cameron headed the ball to Locadia who flicked it past goalkeeper Clement Diop.

“We needed to get a second goal to kill the game and we didn’t do it,” Mihailovic said. “We missed chances.”

On the winner, Ronald Matarrita provided a long cross that Vallecilla timed perfectly for his first career MLS goal.

“We had the game in our hand,” said Montreal midfielder Victor Wanyama. “We dominated the game. They didn’t do anything apart from the two set pieces that they scored.

“They didn’t do anything and we didn’t feel like we were in trouble.”

The stat sheet told a different story. Montreal had a slight edge in possession but Cincinnati had a 13-12 edge in shots with each team managing four shots on goal.

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Montreal enjoyed some control early but was on its heels throughout the second half. Missed assignments and blown opportunities proved costly.

Mihailovic, Brault-Guillard, Quioto and Wanyama were all booked for yellow cards. Montreal will visit the Chicago Fire next Saturday before the international break.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 22, 2021.

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