An absolutely electric extra time period in the 2023 CPL Final saw Forge FC stun rivals Cavalry 2-1 to win their fourth playoff title, becoming the first side in CPL history to lift the trophy on their home pitch. Tristan Borges was the hero for Forge, scoring a stunning Olimpico in the 111th minute to secure the win for the hosts.
Cavalry’s Ali Musse opened the scoring with an incredible curling strike in the 101st minute. But Forge were quick to equalize, as Béni Badibanga scored on a lovely strike from outside the box.
Forge had a couple of early chances from Kyle Bekker corner kicks in the opening minutes. Forge showed off some clever routines, but Cavalry were able to react to them and defend well before any damage was done.
The Cavs got their first real chance in the 16th minute, when they won a free kick just outside the Forge box. After some friendly debate about where the wall should be, however, Ali Musse’s curled effort was ultimately well over the net.
The two sides quickly settled into a more cautious approach thereafter, very much befitting of a final where neither wanted to give something up. Both sides played measured passes and made sure not to lose possession in dangerous areas, looking to find the movement to unlock the opposing backline.
Cavalry held the bulk of possession, with just over 59 per cent at the half, and had a few further decent looks from set pieces, but were unable to make those moments count as the sides headed into the half deadlocked at 0-0.
Looking to shore things up in the second half, Forge elected to bring on central defender Dom Samuel, who had appeared in all four previous CPL Finals, for Kwasi Poku.
Recently named CPL Players Player of the Year, Musse continued to be a handful for Forge down the right flank early in the second half. First, he fired a shot that just missed the top left corner in the 55th minute, before cutting in behind again in the 58th. On that occasion, Musse played a low cross that both Myer Bevan and William Akio had good looks, but neither could make a good enough connection and the ball trickled harmlessly in behind.
The tempo certainly picked up in the second half, with both sides taking more risks and searching for a breakthrough. In the 68th minute, Forge brought on Borges, who scored in the first leg of the inaugural final played between these two sides, looking to find a spark offensively. They started to hold more of the ball thereafter, putting the visitors under pressure.
Cavalry had an outstanding chance in the 75th minute, as Musse again played a lovely cross into Akio, whose cushioned header was played into the path of Jesse Daley. The Australian struck the ball well, but Triston Henry made an outstanding stop, reaching out his arm to deny. Moments later, Forge put the ball in the back of the net through Badibanga, but he had been ruled to have committed a foul in the buildup. Henry then made another solid stop, again on Musse, in the 81st minute.
Forge had one last chance during the 90 minutes, as Badibanga had a free kick to the left of the Forge box. However, he perhaps unwisely chose to go for a goal instead of swinging it into the box. With the score still tied 0-0, the two sides headed to extra time.
In that stoppage period, the goals finally came. Cavalry struck first, with Bevan making an outstanding play to poke the ball through in the box, and Daley laid it off for Musse who curled home a stunning strike. Moments later, however, Forge equalized, both in terms of the scoreline and quality of strike as Béni Badibanga struck from outside the box to make it 1-1.
The match’s decisive moment came from the hero of the 2019 final first leg, also at Tim Hortons Field, Borges. With Forge winning a corner kick, Borges curled the ball directly from the corner past Carducci and into the back of the net, celebrating with arms extended in front of the Forge supporters’ section.
The hosts held on for a stunning fourth CPL Final win in the league’s five finals.
101′ — Ali Musse (Cavalry FC)
105+2′ — Béni Badibanga (Forge FC)
111′ — Tristan Borges (Forge FC)
14′ — Yellow: Manjrekar James (Forge FC)
30′ — Yellow: Sergio Camargo (Cavalry FC)
40′ — Yellow: Myer Bevan (Cavalry FC)
57′ — Yellow: Jesse Daley (Cavalry FC)
72′ — Yellow: Charlie Trafford (Cavalry FC)
110′ — Yellow: Bradley Kamdem (Cavalry FC)
110′ — Yellow: Tristan Borges (Forge FC)
120′ — Yellow: Triston Henry (Forge FC)