HAMILTON – Leg 1 of the Canadian Premier League Finals was low on goals, but very high on drama and entertainment value, with more than a few twists in the tale.
Forge FC and Cavalry FC both finished the game with 10 men, as the hosts earned a 1-0 win via Tristan Borges’ first-half goal before 10, 486 fans at Tim Hortons Field on Saturday evening.
Cavalry was forced to play a man down after defender Joel Waterman was issued a red card in the 37th minute. Forge also had a man sent off when Borges saw red in the 69th minute.
Forge holds the advantage in the aggregate series, as a draw next week in Calgary will see them win Finals 2019. But this victory was costly for Forge, as the expulsion of Borges, the CPL’s top scorer, means he will be suspended for Leg 2.
Saturday’s contest started with a quick tempo, before quickly settling down as both clubs took a more cautious approach and began to feel each other out. Forge captain Kyle Bekker nearly broke the deadlock in the 34th minute when he fired a thunderbolt of a shot that crashed against the crossbar.
Minutes later, Borges was inside the box as he headed towards the goal when Waterman slid across and handled the ball. The defender was shown a straight red card for denying a clear scoring opportunity (he’ll be suspended for Leg 2), and Cavalry had to play a man short for the remainder of the match.
Borges stepped up to the spot, only to see Cavalry goalkeeper Marco Carducci came up with a fabulous leg save to repel his penalty attempt. The visitors escaped another close call minutes later when Daniel Krutzen’s free kick from 25 yards out hit the crossbar.
But Cavalry’s good fortune ran out in first-half injury time. Chris Nanco made an exquisite move down the left flank to masterfully pull away from two Cavalry players before feeding Borges, who curled a gorgeous shot from just inside the box past Carducci and into the upper corner. The goal was Borges’ season-leading 13th of the campaign.
The home side poured on the pressure to start the second half, with Carducci coming up with a big save to deny Nanco inside the box, and David Edgar’s rebound attempt smacked the crossbar.
Tensions boiled over in the 69th minute when Borges and Cavs defender Jay Wheeldon crashed into each other while challenging for a 50/50 ball. A small a melee ensued, and Borges was shown a red card as he was judged to have kicked out at Wheeldon.
Forge continued to press for a second goal, only to be met by a sturdy Cavalry resistance the rest of the way.
Listed as day-to-day in the buildup before the game, captain Nik Ledgerwood overcame a head knock to start for Cavalry. Forge was missing defenders Dominic Samuel and Bertrand Owundi (both suspended).
Saturday marked the eighth meeting in 2019 between Forge and the Cavs, including their second-round Canadian Championship series.
Leg 2 of Finals 2019 is scheduled for next Saturday at ATCO Field at Spruce Meadows in Calgary (3:30 p.m. ET, 1:30 p.m. MT, watch on OneSoccer)). The winner of the two-legged series will be crowned the inaugural Canadian Premier League Champion and hoist the North Star Shield.
45’+1′ – Tristan Borges (Forge FC)
24′ Yellow – Oliver Minatel (Cavalry FC)
37′ Red – Joel Waterman (Cavalry FC)
63′ Yellow – Kwame Awuah (Forge FC)
69′ Red – Tristan Borges (Forge FC)
69′ Yellow – Jay Wheeldon (Cavalry FC)
75′ Yellow – Mason Trafford (Cavalry FC)
88′ Yellow – Nik Ledgerwood (Cavalry FC)
Three Key Performers
Tristan Borges (Forge FC FC)
The red card and his penalty miss notwithstanding, Borges was the best player on the pitch, beating Marco Carducci by netting the game winner via a gorgeous curler just before halftime.
David Edgar (Forge FC)
With Forge coming into this game missing two starting defenders due to suspension, the Canadian international stepped up in a big way to marshal a Forge back line that gave away very little.
Marco Carducci (Cavalry FC)
He made some fabulous saves, including one on Borges’ penalty attempt, to keep the visitors in the match and in this two-legged series going back home next week.