In the first leg of the first-ever Canadian Premier League Final, Forge emerged victorious, winning 1-0 in an entertaining 90 minutes in Hamilton.
Forge FC took a slim first leg advantage in the 2019 Canadian Premier League finals after a 1-0 win over Cavalry FC at the Tim Hortons Field in Hamilton on Saturday, 26 October.
“We were on the front foot, we played Forge football,” said Forge coach Bobby Smryniotis after the game. “It’s what we want to show when we play. I think our crowd was fantastic and they pushed the guys, and the environment was great.”
Tristan Borges, whose super strike on the nick of half time separated the two sides, turned villain when he got sent off in the second half for a nasty challenge.
Before that though, Cavalry had centre back Joel Waterman sent off for deliberately catching the ball with his hands inside his area and denying Borges the opening goal.
Forge FC’s Anthony Novak marked the first goalscoring attempt in the fourth minute but his shot at goal from outside the box was feeble and innocuous to beat goalkeeper Marco Carducci.
The home team had their foot on the accelerator and continued to turn the screw on a defensive looking Cavalry side.
There was another effort from winger Christopher Nanco who was picked up inside the box and the winger with his back against goal, spun and smashed in with his right foot but that effort went wide.
Borges was key in the build up as his sublime skills saw him switch play to the left for Kwame Awuah to connect home.
The real warning shot was fired by captain Kyle Bekker who smashed the woodwork with a belter from 20 yards with Carducci completely beaten. That was a real scare.
“We had them on the back foot since the first minute,” Bekker said. We got kind of set into the game and got a rhythm, which started causing problems.”
Cavalry FC showed little attacking intent as they sat deep into their own and soaked the pressure and that literally sent a message to Forge: ‘come and attack us’.
“We actually flipped the switch a little bit,” Cavalry head coach Tommy Wheeldon Jr said after the game. “(We we’re) more prepared to let them have the ball, so we were comfortable with their centre backs having it, because it wasn’t hurting us.”
On 37 minutes, the pressure and perseverance paid off for Forge who deservedly earned a penalty after Waterman handled the ball inside the box to deny Borges from pulling the trigger. Minutes later, the centre back got sent off for deliberately stopping the ball.
But Carducci, the away goalkeeper, was a stumbling block as he saved Borges’ penalty.
“I committed to my left,” Carducci said of the save. “(I was) thinking he was going that way. (It was) just staying focused, I watched the ball the whole way through, and then fortunately it was close enough for me where I was able to adjust my feet a little bit and make a little bit of an unorthodox save.”
Forge FC fired another shot when Belgian Daniel Krutzen delivered a sumptuous free-kick on his left foot but the centre-back was denied by the cross bar.
On the nick of half time, Borges scored the go-ahead goal and become the first player to score in the inaugural championship playoffs final.
He was let loose again at the edged of the box, the diminutive midfielder teed himself up with a lovely touch inside the box and he smashed it into the far post.
But credit goes to Nanco who made a lovely run on the left wing before laying the pass to the goalkeeper.
Forge managed to go into the break with that slim lead and take advantage of their numerical strength.
At recess, Wheeldon Jr introduced his brother Jonathan, a centre-back, by sacrificing forward Dominique Malonga.
Four minutes into the second stanza Awuah made another run on the left and played put through by a Nanco wall pass. The left back managed to whip in a cross but it was close to Carducci who clutched it to his chest.
Borges maneuvered into the box and dragged the ball onto his left foot before firing over the frame on his weaker right foot.
Three minutes later, David Egdar hit the cross bar from close range with a tap in after Carducci had kept out Nanco’s goal bound shot on the line.
Referee Pieree-Luc Lauziere dished out a straight red on Borges for a cynical tackle.
“I can’t really comment on it,” Smyrniotis said on the decision. “I think the easiest thing to do was watch the video and it’s clear. That’s the only thing I can say on it.”
On the 71st minute mark, Forge’s Senegalese midfielder Emilane Cisse nearly doubled the lead with a header which missed target after Awuah delivered a prosaic cross from the left again.
Four minutes from time, Nanco was denied by centre back who threw himself onto the goal bound shot from inside the box.
Later it was Bekker who attempted to find the back of the net with a flashing header which was off target.
Forge kept a clean-sheet and won the match but the magnitude of the victory gives impetus to Cavalry to overturn the deficit and claim victory on home turf.
There is still more to play for in the return leg next week 02 Noveber, 2019 at the ATCO Field at Spruce Meadows.
“We’re still in the tie,” Wheeldon Jr said. “We can take that back to Spruce Meadows and get that rocking, we’re disappointed to lose, but we know we’ve got a chance at home.”
This match report was written by Ibrahim Ridwan Asante