Halifax Wanderers Fight To Penalty-Filled Victory Over Cavalry FC
Stephen Hart’s Halifax Wanderers side took advantage of an early man advantage to secure a crucial two-one win over last year’s runners-up Cavalry FC, with the east coast side putting itself in a good position to secure a first-ever CPL Final appearance next week.
Two penalty kick goals from Garcia and Morelli saw the east coast side secure a good first half against Cavalry FC, who nearly mounted a late game comeback despite being a man down for the majority of the game. The side will now need to secure a result against Forge FC next week if Tommy Wheeldon Jr.’s side are to survive a campaign that has shown plenty of parity from the top four teams of the competition.
The Cavalry FC lineup was heavily impacted by injuries, with Nico Pasquotti and Nik Ledgerwood both sidelined, Camargo still not ready to return, and Brazilian forward Oliver Minatel having suffered a brutal end to his season with a leg fracture against York9 FC. As a result, it was youngster Jose Hernandez partnering up top with Jordan Brown, with the gaffer selecting a three-man backline of Zator, Wheeldon, and Toronto FC II loanee Robert Boskovic.
Stephen Hart’s Halifax Wanderers side boasted no surprises: in-form striker Akeem Garcia got the nod with the striker on five goals in eight appearances, with the 24-year-old having already opened his group stage account against Forge FC a few days ago. The midfield saw Morelli continue his number ten role in the middle of the park, with Riggi on the left and Cory Bent on the right, and Sissoko and Rampersad filling in behind them.
The first three minutes of action saw Jay Wheeldon collect an early yellow after bringing down Garcia, and it’s a moment that would have a cascading impact on the game. The Wanderers nearly made the resulting set piece count with Schaale head then ball across to golden boot leader Akeem Garcia, who’s effort went wide of the net in the fourth minute.
Catastrophe would then unfold for Cavalry FC in the twentieth minute when Wheeldon wrapped his hands around Garcia in the box, conceding a penalty and earning an early shower courtesy of his second yellow card. The Trinidad and Tobago international continued his tantalizing form from the penalty spot, converting for his sixth goal in nine appearances for the Halifax Wanderers.
Brazilian midfielder Joao Morelli found himself on the end of a smart cross from Riggi minutes later, with the bicycle kick effort not connecting well enough to produce goal from the opportunity. The first half Wanderers chances continued to flow with Garcia nearly finding a way through in the nineteenth minute, but Zator did well to recover the ball and stop a clear breakaway chance for the Trinidad and Tobago international.
The twenty fifth minute would see Garcia sky a closer header right in front of Cavalry FC goalkeeper Marco Carducci, who was very lucky that Garcia was off-target with the close-range aerial effort.
Cavalry FC finally got a good chance to call its own when Brown prodded a good ball forward into space for Bruno Zebie to run into, but the former Eddies man fired his shot wide. Jordan Brown would run free into the right side of the box minutes later, but a smart run for Christian Oxner saw the goalkeeper snuff out the chance entirely.
Carducci found himself called into similar action minutes later, confidently collecting the ball off of a fast-running Riggi to end a dangerous Halifax counter. It was a different story in the fortieth minute when Garcia provided a truly wonderful through ball that split the Calvary FC defenders and gave Morelli a breakaway opportunity. Carducci dove in to stop the chance, but fouled the Brazilian as he attempted to round the goalkeeper. As a result, the second penalty of the match was awarded.
Carducci was perhaps lucky to stay on the pitch, collecting a yellow for the foul and stepping back to the defend against the resulting penalty kick from Morelli. The 24-year-old from Sao Paulo stepped up and fired his shot to the right, with Carducci diving the correct away but ultimately being unable to keep the smartly-placed shot out of the net.
Former Whitecaps trialist Aboubacar Sissoko nearly scored a rocket for the Wanderers moments later through a one-time effort which caught the Cavalry FC defense by surprise, but Carducci was able to parry the shot over the net in this instance. The first half would end with the momentum in Halifax’s favour, with the side up by two goals and one man on the pitch.
The second half saw Morelli nearly got things off to a hot start with a solid out-of-the-box strike going wide of the post, though it looked like Carducci would have had the effort covered. Farsi showed quality to attack down the flank and put Oxner under pressure in the fifty-eighth minute, but unlike last week the full-back couldn’t make a moment of magic.
Geffrard looked to have brought down Zebie in the box minutes later, but referee Mathieu Souare waved away calls for what would have been the game’s third penalty. Despite being a man down, Cavalry FC showed a lot of character to fight back hard as the second half got underway.
The next few minutes would see Cavalry FC accumulate several chances, one of which saw Hernandez dive into a header which flew just north of the net. Impressive Cavalry FC newcomer Mohamed Farsi would continue to cause trouble on the right flank, with Boskovic also finding a moment to dribble through the midfield before firing a long range effort above Oxner and the Halifax goal.
The seventy fourth minute saw Cavalry FC cry out for a handball call, with a replay showing that Schaale had his arm trucked in when it struck him within the box – though the team was incorrectly punished for a similar instance against Forge a few days ago.
The hard work and never-say-die attitude from Cavalry FC paid off ten minutes from time when teenager Aribim Pepple brought the ball forward on the flank, with the ball spilled in the box for Peruvian forward Jair Cordova to fire home and bring his side within touching distance of an equalizer.
The Cavalry FC injuries saw Tofa Fakunle – who was not originally brought with the Alberta-based side as a player – come on as a late game substitute with Wheeldon Jr.’s bench barely having anyone left on it as he sought out a way to equalize with ten men on the pitch.
Moments later, Garcia nearly got a brace with a sliding kick within the box seeing the ball rise up and above the net. The Trinidad and Tobago international nearly found himself in a one-on-one with Carducci in added time, with the Cavalry FC goalkeeper was comfortably first to the ball.
Emergency call-up Tofa Fakunle found himself unmarked in the side’s final set piece opportunity, but his quick shot rose well above the net in as the significant ‘last chance saloon’ chance went begging.
While Cavalry FC did well to fight back with only ten men on the pitch, a strong first half from the Halifax Wanderers was enough to see the east coast side collect a big three points against the regular season winners in the Island Games Group Stage.
The Halifax Wanderers can secure itself a first-ever spot in the CPL Finals with a favourable result against coastal rivals Pacific FC this Tuesday, with Stephen Hart having evidently completed a top-tier rebuild for a Wanderers side which finished dead last in the fall campaign last season.
Cavalry FC will need to secure a win against Forge FC (who else?) on Tuesday if Tommy Wheeldon Jr. is going to see his side book a spot in the single-leg CPL Final. If he doesn’t, it’ll be the second time his club has finished top in the regular season before bowing out of the competition after that.
Header Image Photo Credit: OneSoccer / Nora Stankovic