The HFX Wanderers and Forge FC will lock horns on Saturday in the Canadian Premier League’s championship match.
Mo Babouli’s highlight-reel goal lifted Forge FC to a 1-0 victory over Cavalry FC on Tuesday, eliminating the Calgary-based team while assuring HFX Wanderers a berth despite having a game left to play later on in the day.
Whichever team wins on Saturday will be crowned winners of the Island Games, collect the North Star Shield, advance to the 2020 Canadian Championship final and earn a berth in the 2021 CONCACAF League.
The Canadian Premier League’s (CPL) second season has played out over the last month inside a COVID-19 bubble on Prince Edward Island after a delayed start to the season from the coronavirus pandemic.
Tuesday’s game was a rematch of last year’s two-legged final, won 2-0 on aggregate by Forge. The two teams tied 2-2 in the Aug. 13 opener of the Island Games with Calgary’s Nathan Mavila converting a controversial penalty in stoppage time.
Players from both sides took a knee around the centre circle during the national anthem and at the opening whistle at UPEI Artificial Turf Field.
Forge went ahead in the 28th minute Tuesday against the run of play as captain Kyle Bekker sliced open the Cavalry defence with a pass that took three defenders out of the play.
Babouli was the benefactor with a finish to match, chipping goalkeeper Marco Carducci to cap off the sequence between the two ex-Toronto FC players.
Kwame Awuah did his bit on the play, accelerating to keep the ball out of touch moments before Bekker’s setup that produced Forge’s first shot — and goal — of the game.
Bekker was accidentally punched in the face by a teammate in the celebratory scrum that followed.
Cavalry showed more attack early on but was unable to convert. Forge, meanwhile, had trouble breaking through Cavalry’s tight marking.
Mavila’s third-minute free kick from well outside the penalty box proved to be an easy save for Forge’s Triston Henry. Elliot Simmons’ long-range shot for Cavalry deflected off defender David Edgar in the 13th minute.
Henry had to be sharp to pick off a dangerous low cross from Marcus Haber in the 22nd minute after the big man rocketed down the right wing.
Cavalry trailed 1-0 at the half, despite having 57 per cent possession and outshooting Forge 6-2.
Forge came out strong in the second half while Cavalry struggled to breach the Hamilton team’s defence.
Paolo Sabak, in front of the Cavalry goal, could not get to Babouli’s cross early in the second half. Then Babouli was unable to get a foot to a Johnny Grant cross.
Robert Boskovic’s header off a Cavalry free kick was just wide in the 70th minute. Then Forge FC substitute David Choiniere hit the side netting in the 74th.
Haber’s header went over the Forge crossbar in the 89th minute.
The eight CPL clubs played each other in the first phase of the tournament, with the four top teams advancing to the group stage. The top two then move to the championship game.
The Wanderers will play already eliminated Pacific FC Tuesday evening in the final game of the group stage.
Qualification for the final has been an amazing turnaround for Stephen Hart’s Wanderers, who were bottom of the league in CPL’s inaugural 2019 season.
Forge FC and HFX Wanderers will meet on Saturday at 3 p.m. AT.
With files from The Canadian Press
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