MONTREAL — The Montreal Impact got a slim 1-0 win and the Vancouver Whitecaps got angry.
Antonio Ribeiro scored in the 61st minute against 10-man Vancouver after goalkeeper Jay Nolly was ejected in the opening leg of a two-game USL semifinal series before 12,002 at Saputo Stadium on a chilly Friday night.
The Impact take their one-goal lead in the two-game, total-goal series into the second leg on Sunday in Vancouver.
The Whitecaps will be without Nolly, who earns an automatic one-game suspension for what Impact players said was grabbing Ribeiro by the neck during a skirmish early in the second half.
"I hope 1-0 is enough," said Montreal midfielder Sandro Grande. "We're putting them under pressure now and we hope they're pushing up with a lot of men and we can counterattack.
"They won't have their No. 1 'keeper and that's important for them. He's been excellent all year. They have to win the game. We just need a tie now."
Vancouver will have 23-year-old Tyler Baldock in goal. The 23-year-old saw his first career USL action when he went in for Nolly in the 55th minute and was in for the game's only goal.
After a scoreless first half, a melee in the Vancouver six-yard box five minutes into the second resulted in Nolly's shock ejection.
Grande's blast from 18 yards hopped up and hit Nolly in the head. Ribeiro charged in and bumped the 'keeper while going for the loose ball. After the resulting shoving match, referee Steve DiPiero showed the yellow card to Ribeiro and the red to Nolly.
Whitecaps players mobbed the ref in protest, with veteran Jeff Clarke holding his teammates back to prevent further penalties, to no avail.
The call was made by local linesman Nicolas Dubuc, which further enraged the Whitecaps.
"It was a hometown linesman, he lives in Montreal, what do you expect?" said Clarke. "There was a skirmish - you see it in every soccer match - and for a linesman from 40 yards away to say our 'keeper struck him is an absolute disgrace.
"He shouldn't be in this league if he's going to be making calls like that. If that happens in pre-season or April or May, you can get through it, but when it happens in the semifinal, I'm very disappointed."
Only moments later, Peter Byers was brought down in the penalty area, but hit the ball off a defender to Ribeiro for a shot into an open side from directly in front for the game's only score. Vancouver midfielder Mason Trafford was lying injured to the side of the play. He was substituted by Omar Jarun.
Down a man, the Whitecaps had some scary moments but managed to hold on, while their striker Eduardo Sebrango had a good chance in the 70th minute, but missed on a header and Lyle Martin got the ball unmarked on the left side in the 80th but managed only a weak shot that was stopped by Matt Jordan.
"It was a bit nerve-wracking for the first few minutes," said Baldock. "But you can't ask for more to be at Saputo Stadium with all these fans. It's a great environment."
He said he won't be nervous getting his first career start at home in a do-or-die playoff match.
"If anything, I'm more excited being in front of our home fans," he said. "I think they'll see this as a moral victory and hopefully, we'll give them a good show."
Defender Steve Kindel called the ejection "crap," but said the Whitecaps now have to take care of business at home.
"We didn't think we'd win this series with one goal in two games," he said. "We respect Montreal too much for that.
"We have to score a couple of goals. We knew that before the series started."
The clubs met in the 2006 semifinals, with Vancouver winning by a 2-0 total before going on to win the USL championship.
Montreal reached the semifinals with a 4-3 aggregate win over the defending league champion Seattle Sounders, with Ribeiro providing the winning goal, while Vancouver won 5-4 over the Minnesota Thunder.
In the other semifinal, the Rochester Raging Rhinos drew first blood at home, defeating first-place Puerto Rico 2-0.
The Impact have been on a hectic schedule. Between league playoffs and the CONCACAF Champions League, it was their fifth game in 10 days.
It started with a home match against Mexican club Atlante on Sept. 24, followed by a trip to Seattle, then the return match, in the USL quarter-finals. Then came a trip to Honduras to play Olimpia and a return flight home on Thursday to face the Whitecaps.
They leave Saturday for Vancouver, then head straight to Trinidad and Tobago to face Joe Public FC on Wednesday. Should they beat Vancouver, the USL final will be played on Oct. 11, with the site yet to be determined.
"I didn't travel to Honduras and I'm still tired," said Grande. "Felix Brillant went to the hospital on Monday for fatigue.
"It's not east playing all these games. Even if you're on the bench, you're part of the game. You still have the nervous tension that drains you."
Montreal was without midfielder Leonardo di Lorenzo, who suffered a light concussion in Honduras, and defender Adam Braz, who served a one-game suspension.
The Whitecaps were missing defender Geordie Lydall, who suffered a hamstring injury against Minnesota, but had centre back Omar Jarun back from a hip injury, although he didn't start.