Blows were traded back and forth as Woodbridge Strikers and Toronto FC III duked it out in a 3-3 draw at Vaughan Grove, Woodbridge on Tuesday night.
The two highest scoring teams in the league put on a show for the packed bleachers in the battle for first place.
Federico Leal (4', 58') struck first for Woodbridge with a long-distance shot. TFC III goalkeeper Spencer King was caught off his line in his first League1 game of the season, and he could only watch as the ball sailed into the net.
Later in the half, a corner kick ended up at the feet of Emmanuel Issac (20') who rifled it in for his ninth goal of the season to make it 2-0 for the home team.
The Woodbridge forward has been on fire in the last two months, scoring in every league game since the beginning of June. He's now level with FC London's Connor Wilson in the men's golden boot race.
Toronto FC III fought back later in the half, and Daniel Bilousov (37') cut the deficit to 2-1 with a low strike past Woodbridge goalkeeper Roberto Stillo.
Terique Mohammed (45' + 2) equalized in the last play of the half with a shot from afar that was deflected into the goal. The teams went into halftime at 2-2 with TFC III carrying the momentum.
Pouring rain made the pitch extra slick during the break, allowing for some fast play between the two powerhouse teams. Leal (53') completed his brace early in the second half with a right-footed curler into the corner of the goal, making it 3-2 for Woodbridge.
TFC III levelled the score once again after Malyk Hamilton (68') thumped a power header from a cross. TFC continued to push after the 3-3 scoreline, and they almost took the lead in the 70th minute had it not been for a diving goal line save by Stillo. TFC argued that the ball had crossed the line, but the referee signalled for a corner instead.
Toronto solidified their defence in the later stages of the match, and Woodbridge were unable to get another shot on target. The Strikers focused on attacking with long balls to Matthew Santos on the right wing, but the well of chances eventually dried up. Santos was thrown of the game later in the 89th minute after getting a red card for a reckless tackle.
Both teams continued to fight for a positive result until the final whistle was blown, ending the game in a draw. Tempers still flared after the match, resulting in a shoving match that had to be broken up. Zakaria Abdi was cautioned after the game.
Leal and Mohammed were named game MVPs, and Woodbridge stalwart Francesco Sinopoli became the first player of the 2018 League1 Ontario season to break four digits in minutes, clocking in at 1043 with four matches left to go.
After a short three-day rest from the L1 Cup final on Saturday, Toronto FC III (8-1-2) defended their top spot in the table with 26 points. Their goal differential remains at +23 (35 GF, 12 GA).
TFC III will continue their battle at the top of the table against the undefeated Sigma FC. The Junior Reds will take on the strongest defence in the league on August 12 (11:00 a.m.) at the BMO Training Ground, Toronto.
Woodbridge Strikers (7-2-3) hold on to second place with 24 points. Their goal differential also stays at +26 (39 GF, 13 GA).
Woodbridge will stay at home to welcome playoff-hopefuls Alliance United FC. They will kickoff at Vaughan Grove, Woodbridge on August 12 (7:00 p.m.).