Well, that was fun, wasn’t it?
One goal, two red cards, three hit crossbars and quite a few more than four controversial moments wrote the thrilling script of the first leg of the Canadian Premier League Finals on Saturday. Forge FC emerged victors with a 1-0 win over Cavalry FC at Tim Hortons Field.
It was a historic and important occasion already, with the CPL’s top teams in Year 1 squaring off to be the side to lift the North Star Shield for the first time.
Before attention shifts to the deciding Leg 2 in Calgary on Saturday, Nov. 2 (3:30 p.m. ET/1:30 p.m. MT, on OneSoccer) at ATCO Field in Spruce Meadows, let’s take a look at five key moments that made Leg 1 can’t-miss viewing.
RELATED READING: HIGHLIGHTS: Borges, Carducci shine in red card-laden Leg 1 tilt
1. Heroic left-sided first half from Nanco and Awuah
Key to Forge’s breakthroughs on the day, Chris Nanco and Kwame Awuah combined for some of the most exciting moments in the first half.
Awuah given licence to roam on the overlap, the pair swarmed Dominick Zator, who was largely left to defend himself behind Nico Pasquotti much further upfield. Often deployed in midfield this season, Awuah looked great in his more natural left-back position.
The pair found entrances into the box high up on the wing – entering closer to the top rather than taking the byline – and gained confidence that would run well into the second frame.
A left-sided breakthrough led to the most exciting moments from Leg 1, including below…
2. Bekker off the crossbar
A canary in the first-half coal mine for Forge.
This sequence was much more than Kyle Bekker’s massive smash off the corner of the upright from nearly 30 yeards way.
It was Nanco’s run and cross, Frano’s header across the box, and a missed opportunity around the penalty spot. It showed, as the ball popped out of a frantic 18-yard box, that Cavalry was primed to be exposed in the first half. That was proven moments later…
3. 36:14 to 38:59
Two minutes and 45 seconds turned this match on its head.
First came perhaps the most controversial red card (yet) in CPL Year 1. Joel Waterman, sliding to block Tristan Borges, saw the ball roll into his extended arm, forcing a red card from referee Pierre-Luc Lauzière. As the last defender between Borges and the ball, the call made sense – however controversial it may be.
Then, Borges stepped up to deliver the first blow, hoping to score the first goal in Finals history. Marco Carducci had other ideas, though.
Diving to his left, the Canadian national team member sent the ball flying out of play with a trailing leg.
There went this massive shift in fortunes… but it didn’t end there.
4. Borges with a flash of brilliance
The CPL’s leading goalscorer would not be denied. Minutes later, the diminutive Borges saw a lifted effort sail over a 10-man Cavalry side and into the side-netting late in first-half injury time – moments after missing that penalty.
A quick bit of redemption for Borges, who moved to 13 goals on the season – two ahead of Terran Campbell of Pacific FC and Dominique Malonga of Cavalry in the Golden Boot race.
In retrospect, where would Forge be without Borges’ goal? They’d go on to clang three shots off the crossbar. If not with Borges, when?
Well, uhh, it couldn’t be Borges for long.
5. Borges and Wheeldon’s wrestling match
It’s only fair that Finals 2019’s first hero would fall so quickly.
Lauzière was active throughout the match. His next bit of major work? This interesting interaction between Borges and Cavalry’s Jonathan Wheeldon. The players emerged – or rather, stood up – to learn of another unexpected fate:
Borges sees red. Off the pitch for the next 20 minutes and, pending appeal, the next 90 in Calgary.
As with his goal, the rhetorical question lingers: How would the match have ended with Borges? Did he have another goal in him?
Down to 10 men each, neither side could eke out anything more than what was already decided.