Forge Survives Late Scare, Beats Ottawa on Penalties
There was quite the drama at Tim Hortons Field as Forge FC and Atletico Ottawa met in the quarter-finals of the Canadian Championship. While the Hammers dominated the game, they needed penalties to get past the capital city club.
Bobby Smyrniotis made several changes to the team coming off of their 1-0 victory at York United on Friday night. Amongst the changes, captain Kyle Bekker came in along with Ashtone Morgan, who had received a red card in league play against York.
Ottleti also saw a few changes to their eleven. Following their 4-1 defeat at home to Pacific on Saturday, Carlos Gonzalez made some adjustments in the attack: Jean-Aniel Assi and Zakaria Bahous were among the players starting in this evening’s game.
Forge carried most of the game as expected, with their first major chance coming eight minutes in. Terran Campbell was picked out in the box by a Bekker cross. Unfortunately for the attacker, Sean Melvin was equal to it, denying Forge an early goal.
While Ottawa did not create much in the attacking phase during the first half, they had the best chance. Assi found Malcolm Shaw in the box, with the latter’s header requiring an acrobatic save from Triston Henry.
Forge continued to create chances after being let off the hook by their goalkeeper. Their best chance came in the final moments of the opening half when Tristan Borges found Woobens Pacius just outside of the six-yard box. Pacius’ effort, however, ended up being blocked.
The second half was where all the drama truly began: there was a brief period where Forge had multiple shots in a few moments, ultimately being thwarted each time by Melvin. The last of the bunch was an effort from Rezart Rama, to which the angle was cut down by the Ottawa number one.
The breakthrough goal came 15 minutes before the end of the match. Alexander Achiniotti-Jonsson played a smart ball over the top to Bekker. The Forge skipper did well to get the ball under control and leave his marker behind before firing an incredible shot on a tight angle past Melvin, finally putting the Hammers in front.
It seemed as if the Hamiltonians were safe and would hold on for the win. Yet, Ottawa would not go down easy: five minutes before time, Karl Ouimette played a cross into the box that was controlled by substitute Samuel Salter. The Ottawa striker’s shot hit Manjrekar James’ arm, to which the referee pointed to the spot. Ollie Bassett converted the ensuing penalty, beating Henry to his right post.
The visitors nearly stole it just moments later. Salter got the better of Achiniotti-Jonsson, and tried to beat Henry,who was off his line. The Forge goalkeeper did well to get back and produce another acrobatic save to deny the former HFX Wanderers player.
With the score 1-1 after 90 minutes, penalties were used to decide who would go through. The first taker for Ottawa was Shaw, whose spot kick was saved by Henry. After both Borges and Bassett hit the post, Noah Jensen stepped up and slotted his home, despite Melvin getting a piece of it.
After Salter also had his penalty denied by Henry, Pacius stepped up and blasted his over the bar. Gianni Dos Santos, Achiniotti-Jonsson, and Luke Singh all put their penalties away, allowing for Jordan Hamilton to deliver the final blow. Instead, Hamilton’s tame kick was saved by Melvin.
The very next penalty, from Ottawa’s Zachary Verhoven, was also hit over the bar. For the second straight kick, Forge had a chance to win it. They wouldn’t need a third invitation, as Aboubacar Sissoko put his home to end the match.
Winning 3-2 on penalties after the 1-1 draw, Forge won their first penalty shootout at the fourth attempt. Having lost to Toronto FC and CF Montreal via spot kicks in the 2020 and 2021 editions, respectively, the penalty hoodoos are finally gone for Forge. They are now in their second Canadian Championship semi-final, setting up a new rematch with CF Montreal.
For Ottawa, they will look to get things going on the weekend at Vancouver FC.
Header Image Photo Credit: Canadian Premier League