Forge FC emerged the victors against York United for the second time in four days on a rainy Tuesday night at York Lions Stadium, as the defending CPL champions clinched first place in the 2021 league table with a 3-1 win.
With his side’s postseason fate secured, York coach Jimmy Brennan — as he hinted in his pre-match comments — gave starting opportunities to some players who haven’t seen the pitch much recently, including Ijah Halley, Jordan Faria, and club debutant Javier George. Forge, though — needing a win to lock up first place — deployed an almost full-strength starting XI (although captain Kyle Bekker got a very rare night off).
The game was quite cagey in the opening stages, as both sides tried to feel each other out and get accustomed to the wet conditions. Neither team could get much going in attack, with most of the better opportunities coming from set-pieces.
Indeed, it was a set-piece that first broke the deadlock. Just over 20 minutes into the affair, York fouled Tristan Borges about 15 yards from the top of their own penalty area. Though Forge put several players around the ball to deceive the defenders, it was Borges himself who stepped up for the free kick and laced a stunning effort off the crossbar and in to make it 1-0.
York had a few chances of their own after conceding, but it would be Forge who struck again not long before halftime. After the home side cleared away a corner kick, Borges found space on the left side for a pass from Dominic Samuel, and he steered it back into the penalty area. His initial shot was blocked, but defender Daniel Krutzen was in the right place to smash it through traffic into the goal and make it 2-0.
Down a pair of goals at half, York made a trio of changes after the interval to try and add some more energy. Isaiah Johnston, Osvaldo Ramirez, and Muslim Umar checked in to replace Noah Verhoeven, Sebastian Gutierrez, and Jordan Faria, and the Nine Stripes sought to take more control of the ball.
The rejuvenated home side clawed their way back into the match almost immediately; after a Niko Giantsopoulos save at the other end, Isaiah Johnston came down the middle with pace and found Lowell Wright with a clever through ball to the top of the box. The 18-year-old finished clinically from about 15 yards out to make it 2-1 in the 51st minute with his sixth goal of 2021.
Osvaldo Ramirez nearly equalized less than 10 minutes later, as a terrific cross from Diyaeddine Abzi found him alone at the back post, but he was unable to sort his feet out in time and Kwame Awuah steered the ball to safety for Forge.
York continued to press for most of the second half, with Halley and Ramirez in particular coming close with shots from the corner of the six-yard box, but once again it would be Forge who scored next. They won a free kick well out to the side of the penalty area, and Mo Babouli delivered a curling strike that may have been deflected but nonetheless fooled Giantsopoulos and found the twine.
With the victory, Forge secured home field advantage throughout the CPL Playoffs, and ensured that they will host York United in the semi-final match at Tim Hortons Field on Sunday, November 21.
24′ — Tristan Borges (Forge FC)
42′ — Daniel Krutzen (Forge FC)
51′ — Lowell Wright (York United)
73′ — Alexander Achinioti-Jonsson (Forge FC)
36′ — Yellow: Daniel Krutzen (Forge FC)