Forge 3-1 Pacific: Hammers Close In On Second
After having locked up a playoff spot before taking the field, Forge added to the celebrations with a crucial three points. Coming from behind, they defeated Pacific 3-1 at Tim Hortons Field to jump ahead of the Tridents into second spot.
Following their 3-2 success at Valour last weekend, Forge coach Bobby Smyrniotis made four changes to the starting eleven. Most notably, Kwasi Poku returns to the team after serving his two-game suspension.
As for Pacific, they also came into Saturday evening’s match off the back of an impressive win – a 4-1 hammering of York United. That result saw the 2021 North Star Shield winners clinch a place in October’s playoffs. Pacific gaffer James Merriman opted to start the same eleven as he did at York Lions Stadium the previous weekend.
Merriman’s trust in his same eleven seemed to pay off initially: just four minutes in, and Pacific went in front. Manny Aparicio played an inch perfect ball into the Forge box, finding Djenairo Daniels. The striker’s shot beat Triston Henry to put Pacific in front.
However, the lead would barely last two minutes. Right after the restart, Forge went the other way and equalized with a near carbon copy of their opponent’s opener. Poku whipped in a cross which found Rezart Rama’s head. The Forge right back headed the ball past Emil Gazdov to level the score.
Both teams continued to threaten as the match opened up after the two quick-fire goals. Unfortunately, things the. took a dangerous turn. Midway through the first half, Pacific’s Kunle Dada-Luke and Forge’s Malcolm Duncan collided as the two were going for the same ball. Both players were seriously injured, which caused the match to be temporarily suspended as both players were taken to hospital. Fortunately, both are said to be in stable condition. We wish both players a speedy recovery.
Shortly after the match got back underway, Forge got themselves in front. Poku was again at the forefront of the host’s attack. The left back found Beni Badibanga with a cross, with the creative attacker’s header being initially saved by Gazdov. The ball hit the bar and stayed out, but Woobens Pacius was first to react, tapping the ball home.
The first half ended 2-1 in Forge’s favour, as they looked the better after the lengthy stoppage. In the second half, Pacific started to create more chances as they pushed for an equalizer. Just minutes after the restart, Kekuta Manneh went for goal and just missed the net. The same player failed to finish off a tap-in moments later.
Just before the hour mark, Amer Didic decided to shoot from well inside his own half. With Henry off his line, the Pacific center back went for goal. Henry scrambled back to his goal to pull off a heroic save to keep the score at 2-1. Unfortunately for the Hammers’ number one, he hit his head off the goal frame, causing him to be substituted.
Pacific continued to push for a leveler. Steffen Yeates went for goal from distance, just missing the inside of the post. He had Forge substitute keeper Christopher Kalongo well beaten, but just could not find the target.
Forge managed to hold their nerve throughout the second half, and would seal the deal in stoppage time. Jordan Hamilton, who came on for Terran Campbell, managed to break free and get a shot off, that was initially saved by Gazdov. The ball came back to Hamilton, who faked a shot to sit down Gazdov, before tucking the ball home between two Pacific defenders.
The match ended 3-1 for Forge, who now jumps into second place with the victory. Pacific’s defeat also meant that Cavalry officially claimed the CPL regular season title as they have an seven-point lead over nearest challengers Forge with two games to play.
On the cusp of earning a trip to Spruce Meadows for the first semifinal, Forge heads to HFX Wanderers next weekend knowing that should they win and Pacific does not, they will clinch second place.
As for the Tridents, they can at least secure third spot if they beat Vancouver FC next weekened, and/or if the Wanderers do not defeat Forge next weekend, and Atlético Ottawa does not win either of their next two matches against Valour and York United.
Header Image Photo Credit: Indi Kumala