By Daniel Clubbe.
Round one of the Island Games was always likely to be a tough act to follow, although round two gave it the best shot as yet more goals, penalties and red cards reigned supreme across the four fixtures.
This week’s matches saw the big names coming to the fore as plenty of new arrivals made their first mark on the Canadian Premier League, including a particularly exciting 21-year-old Belgian attacking midfielder who got his first Forge FC goal.
As the league begins to take some early shape here is how the second round of matches played out.
All matches played behind closed doors in Charlottetown, PEI
Pacific FC 1-1 York9 FC
After both teams drew their first match both went in search of their first win of the campaign. It was the Nine Stripes who started the brighter of the two, creating numerous chances in the opening exchanges but failing to capitalise on any. York9’s 16-year-old sensation Lowell Wright will have been most disappointed as he sent his header wide from point-blank range.
As the match wore on Pacific grew into the contest as an attacking force and created chances of their own before the break, however, the score remained goalless at half time.
When the opening goal finally came it was a touch of quality from new Spanish import Alvaro Rivero, the former Real Madrid academy prospect one touch and volley from the edge of the box flying past a helpless Nolan Wirth in the Pacific net.
Pacific had to wait until the first minute of stoppage time to draw level as Lukas MacNaughton rose highest and earliest to glance on the corner at the near post and into the York9 goal. With just seconds remaining the side from British Columbia almost stole all three points when York9 defender Luca Gasparotto inexplicably headed a goalbound effort towards his own keeper. This error of judgment would have certainly been the decisive strike were it not for a stunning reaction save from Nine Stripes stopper Nathan Ingham.
Atletico Ottawa 0 – 4 Valour FC
After a goalless hour, Atletico might have fancied their chances of going on and winning the first match in their history. However, it soon turned out to be a nightmare for the CanPL newcomers as the Winnipegers Valour picked up their first points of the 2020 Island Games campaign. What had been an even contest for an hour changed dramatically when experienced centre-back Milovan Kapor saw red after two yellow cards, the second of which gifted Canadian international and former Rangers attacker Fraser Aird chance to score from the spot – a chance he took as he sent the Ottawa keeper the wrong way.
The floodgates were now open as Mista’s side dubbed ‘Ottleti’ struggled to cope with their numerical disadvantage as the capitulated at the back. Haitian centre-back doubled the Valour lead on 77 minutes as he found space in the box to head home from a corner. Dylan Carreiro grabbed Rob Gale’s side’s third goal as the clocked ticked past 90 minutes, his tame left-footed strike was met by a weak attempt at a save before creeping into over the line.
There was still time for one more as Spaniard and ironically former Atletico Madrid B and C team player José Galán imposed further misery on Ottawa to make it 4-0. it could be a case of back to the drawing board as the wait goes on for the Atletico Madrid owned side, who have now conceded six in their opening two matches, rather unlike the ways of their Spanish parent club.
HFX Wanderers 1-1 Forge FC
Forge took the lead thanks to a poor goalkeeping decision from HFX Wanderers stopper Jason Beaulieu, as he clattered into Kwame Awuah inside the penalty area in an ill-advised attempt to claim the ball. New Belgian arrival Paolo Sabak stepped up to score his first for the club and the first of the match, the 21-year-old smashing the ball past Beaulieu who tried in vain to make amends for his error.
Immediately after the half-time interval with Coach Stephen Hart’s words still ringing in their ears, Wanderers were back on level terms as Akeem Garcia got on the end of a through ball from substitute Alex Marshall to make it 1-1.
Both teams rather settled for an even share of the spoils as neither created clear cut chances to win the match, a point for Forge enough to see them move to second and remain unbeaten in their opening three Island Games matches.
FC Edmonton 0-2 Cavalry FC
It took until the stroke of half-time for Cavalry to take control of this match, as a resolute FC Edmonton side made life difficult for the side who are many people’s favourites for the tournament overall. When the goal eventually did come it was former West Ham striker Jordan Brown who’s reactionary first-time finish in the penalty area left the Eddies keeper with no chance.
After the break, Jeffrey Paulus’s men had to be slightly more expansive as they chased the game, although any hopes they had of getting back into the contest were quickly dealt a blow as Toronto FC loanee Terique Mohammed saw red for a dangerous high tackle on Mohamed Farsi. Cavs squandered numerous chances to double their lead, midfielder Elliot Simmons pulling all the strings in Thomas Wheeldon Jr’s men midfield as they strived to get past an inspired Connor James in the Edmonton goal once more.
Eventually, in the final minute of added-on time, they got their richly deserved second, Brown converting the penalty he had rather dubiously earned as he appeared to jump over Jeannot Esua’s sliding challenge. 2-0 the final score was a fair reflection as Cavalry went top on seven points whilst Edmonton sits bottom after losing their opening two matches of 2020, albeit having played both last season’s finalists.
Another action-packed round of fixtures draws to a close and its last years’ finalists Cavalry and Forge who occupy the top two spots in the table, can anybody stop them making their way to a consecutive final.
There’s little time to wait as the third round begins tomorrow with a host of important clashes.
Island Games Fixtures
York9 FC v Valour FC Saturday
Forge FC v Pacific FC Saturday
Atletico Ottawa v FC Edmonton Sunday
Cavalry FC v HFX Wanderers Monday