Rob Gale’s Valour FC completed back-to-back victories for the first time in their history with a 2-0 win over HFX Wanderers on Wednesday, courtesy of a 20th minute Andrew Jean-Baptiste header and a William Akio strike in the 89th minute.
In between the goals, HFX produced the majority of the game’s best chances but for the second straight game lose a match 2-0 despite producing an impressive second half display.
Valour, coming off a 2-0 win of their own over reigning champions Forge FC on Sunday, made two changes to their starting XI with Andy Baquero coming in at right back for the injured Brett Levis — Federico Pena moving to left back where he played the second half on the weekend — and Masta Kacher getting the nod ahead of Daryl Fordyce, allowing young Canadian Sean Rea to play a more attacking central midfield role.
HFX Wanderers boss Stephen Hart made three changes from their 2-0 loss to Pacific FC on the opening day of the season, Omar Kreim was preferred to Corey Bent on the left, Joao Morelli for Akeem Garcia in an advanced forward role and Alex Marshall picked to play on the right for Jake Ruby, moving Morey Doner back to a more natural right back position.
Much of the talk coming into this game was around the heat and with temperatures at 34 degrees Celsius at kick off you could have forgiven the teams for a slow start, but it turned out to be the opposite as a wide-open, entertaining affair began almost immediately. Halifax’s Peter Schaale and Marshall both came close within three minutes, something that became too familiar for the Jamaican winger who was denied again twice soon after, once by an excellent recovery run from the impressive Baquero and the other by the lack of whistle from referee Carly Shaw-MacLaren to confirm a goal after he smashed the ball off the bar, with it crashing to the ground agonizingly close to beyond the line, only for the officials to wave play on.
By that point, Marshall and HFX were already behind as two minutes before the ball refused to show itself clearly into the back of one net it left no doubt at the other, leaving the boot of Keven Aleman at a corner and landing onto the head of Jean-Baptiste who opened the scoring with a thunderous header past Christian Oxner. Cruelly, for Hart’s team their key centre-back Schaale, whose presence and aerial ability they need to defence set pieces, was forced to watch the goal from the sidelines, limping off in the 14th minute after a duel with Raphael Ohin and forcing the Wanderers to replace a key defender early for the second straight game.
Valour led and impressed through direct play and workrate but it was Halifax who had the better of the game’s chances as the game wore on, Morelli blazing the ball over the bar after good work by Stefan Karajovanovic, substitute Cory Bent firing wide from Doner’s cross and CF Montreal loanee ‘keeper Jonathan Sirois twice denying them, saving well to stop Karajovanovic and Eriks Santos.
Led by the imperious Jean-Baptiste, Valour stood firm, HFX couldn’t find the back of the net and as the game entered its final minute substitute Akio sealed the deal and history for the Winnipeg side.
20′ — Andrew Jean-Baptiste (Valour FC)
89′ — William Akio (Valour FC)
48′ — Yellow: Jake Ruby (HFX Wanderers)
71′ — Yellow: Alex Marshall (HFX Wanderers)