By Dan Clubbe.
Forge FC and Cavalry FC are perhaps justifying their favourites tag to reach consecutive finals as both sides went on their merry way following another round of fixtures in the Canadian Premier League’s Island Games competition.
All matches are being played behind closed doors at UPEI Alumni Field, Charlotteown, PEI, but have still offered plenty of entertainment for fans watching on from home.
Here’s how the latest action played out.
York9 FC 0-0 Valour FC
This was not one for the football pureists, although it had to arrive eventually. After 10 pulsating matches to kick off the Island Games, Saturday afternoon produced the first goalless draw, and it was not one for the ages.
Jimmy Brennan’s York9 and Rob Gale’s Valour spent 90 minutes sparring without ever landing a meaningful blow. Having put four past a hapless Atletico Ottawa in midweek, many might’ve expected more from the team out of Winnipeg.
One speculative long-range strike from Valour’s Fraser Aird and a poor shot dragged wide from York9 winger Ryan Telfer were as close as either team came to breaking the deadlock. The point apiece keeps both sides within touching distance of the all-important top four going into the fourth round of matches next week.
Forge FC 2-1 Pacific FC
Two teams with aspirations of going far in the competition this year battled it out in the late evening sunshine, although Christopher Nanco may have thought it was Christmas Day as the 25-year-old winger received an inexplicably poor pass out from Pacific keeper Nolan Wirth. Nanco did the rest as he buried his effort into the bottom right-hand corner to open the scoring after 18 minutes.
Moments later, it should have been two for Bobby Smyrniotis’ side as striker Wiethaeuper-Balbinotti should have crowned his first start with a goal, the 22-year-old failed to get the contact required as he slid in at the back post, even a slightly better touch would have doubled the lead as Wirth was left stranded in the Pacific goal. Shortly after, Wirth could breathe a sigh of relief and Wiethaeuper-Balbinotti was made to rue his miss even more so as Jamar Dixon reacted first to a loose ball in the box to level the match, rewarding his manager Pa-Modou Kah for giving him his first start as a PFC player.
Both teams squandered chances to win the match in the second half, Forge’s Belgian midfielder Paolo Sabak coming off the bench was instrumental in everything good for the Ontario club. In the 97th minute, seconds over the additional time, Mo Babouli reached the byline to pull back across the face of the area where the late-arriving captain Kyle Bekker gratefully swept the ball home to give Forge the latest of winners and to break Pacific hearts.
Atletico Ottawa 2-2 FC Edmonton
It was a tale of two halves as Ottawa contrived to throw away a two-goal cushion as they went in search of their first win. It took just 21 seconds for experienced Mexican midfielder Francisco Acuna to open the scoring as ‘Ottleti’ won the ball high up the pitch and Acuna drove home his effort low into the left-hand corner, the perfect start for Mista’s side.
Just 14 minutes later, life got better for Mista as Acuna stepped up to the plate again, this time firing his effort in off the post to double the lead.
Remarkably, Ottawa were punished for not adding a third to their lead as, with two minutes left, Kevin Aleman fired home a loose ball into the roof of the net before Easton Ongaro bundled the ball home from the goalline after batting work from 20-year-old Antony Caceres created the opportunity. The late drama left Eddie’s manager Jeff Paulus jubilant while Mista and all associated with Ottawa will be left wondering what they have to do to get a win in CanPL football.
Cavalry 2-1 HFX Wanderers
Cavalry continued their seemingly unrelenting pursuit towards another finals outing as they rather snuck past HFX Wanderers on Sunday night. Former West Ham left-back Nathan Mavila got rather fortunate when he broke the deadlock with a right-footed cross sent looping over a backpedaling Jason Beaulieu in the Wanderers’ goal.
Both sides exchanged half-chances but neither could find the cutting edge until another Englishman, Jordan Brown, got his third goal in two matches. The powerful striker held off his defender well in the area before turning and firing a left-footed strike into the far right-hand corner, a goal which all but sealed another three points for the Calgary outfit.
There was still time for HFX to give themselves what eventually turned out to be a consolation goal. Cavs central defender Jay Wheeldon was correctly adjudged to have handled inside the box as he made a mess of his attempted headed clearance. 23-year-old Trinidadian forward Akeen Garcia slotted the penalty home but it was too little too late as Cavalry picked up all three points.
Pacific FC v Valour FC Wednesday
York9 FC v Forge FC Wednesday
FC Edmonton v HFX Wanderers Thursday
Atletico Ottawa v Cavalry FC Friday