For the second time inside their opening six games of the 2021 Canadian Premier League season, reigning champions Forge delivered an outstanding team display after coming off a loss, responding to a 1-0 defeat by Valour on Sunday, with an excellent 1-0 victory over FC Edmonton on Wednesday evening in Winnipeg.
Mo Babouli’s penalty kick in the 38th minute was enough to secure all three points for Bobby Smyrniotis and his side to leave his team on nine points through six games, three wins and three defeats. Babouli struck after referee David Barrie pointed to the spot after the ball struck the hand of Edmonton defender Mele Temguia while he was on the ground.
The defender was one of six changes made by head coach Alan Koch to the FC Edmonton team that lost 2-1 to HFX Wanderers on Saturday with Temguia replacing Hunter Gorskie at centre-back, Allan Zebie for Ramon Soria in central midfield, Kyle Porter, Roberto Avila and Marcus Velado-Tsegaye in as attacking midfielders for Jeannot Esua, Thomas Gardner and Sharly Mabussi, while Easton Ongaro got the nod over Tobias Warschewski for just his second start of the season up top. While many coaches have rotated their squads inside the Winnipeg bubble, this group struggled together in the opening half, as Forge’s 3-4-3 tactical shape caused Koch into a rethink that saw him make three subs at half-time. The introduction of Warschewski, Esua and Gardner, as well as a quicker tempo, certainly brought much-needed improvement for Edmonton but the damage was already done by their opponents to secure the victory.
Forge’s performance was even more impressive, having as many as nine players not available to start, and Smyrniotis made three changes from the 1-0 loss to Valour FC on Sunday afternoon, with stalwarts Triston Henry and Kyle Bekker back after a rest for Baj Maan and the injured Dejan Jakovic respectively (Alexander Achinioti-Jonsson moved back to centre-back), Joshua Navarro was given his first start in for David Choinère on the right.
Eddies striker, Ongaro, has had a frustrating start to the season, missing his team’s best chance on the opening day of the season against Atlético Ottawa and then a last minute penalty kick against York United, but looked eager to impress and take his chance early, spinning and shooting towards goal inside 80 seconds and forcing a good save out of Henry. Although, very early it proved to be a chance they would struggle to recreate again.
Forge responded well and playing in a fluid system, that often looked like a 3-4-3 that moved into a 4-4-1-1, caused Koch’s men issues, particularly down the right through the lively Chris Nanco whose shot from outside the box in the 14th minute smashed off the bar, into the air, and out of play. Nanco and Pablo Sabak worked really well together in the opening half, combining for more chances with Bekker’s shot blocked by the excellent Amer Didic, Mo Babouli’s shot saved by Connor James and Sabak’s quick feet and pass to Nanco close to resulting in a penalty after contact by the aforementioned Temguia in the box.
Sabak’s brilliant movement continued to cause troubles and in the 38th minute he drifted into space, cut the ball back on his left foot that struck Temguia’s hand on the floor and a penalty was awarded. With Tristan Borges on the bench, Babouli stepped up for the team’s second spot kick of the season and he struck it well to the goalkeeper’s right and into the net.
Babouli almost turned goal provider soon after, a tempting cross for Navarro was met by a header that was narrowly off target, and the former Toronto FC striker was full of confidence following his goal, having two more shots on goal just after the interval, before supplying a delicious pass to Elimane Oumar Cissé whose shot was blocked.
Borges, out injured for the past ten days, gave Forge fans more joy by coming into the game with 15 minutes remaining, winning a free kick and igniting an attack at a key time in the match.
FC Edmonton improved as the game went on, Ongaro met a cross with his head in injury time but it didn’t threaten Henry in the Forge goal, and Paris Gee had a tame shot comfortably saved by the Forge ‘keeper soon after leaving Koch’s team with just four points through five games (one win, one draw, three losses).
38′ Mo Babouli pen’ (Forge FC)
36′ — Yellow: Roberto Avila (FC Edmonton)
43′ — Yellow: Pablo Sabak (Forge FC)
69′ — Yellow: Mo Babouli (Forge FC)
77′ — Yellow: Tristan Henry (Forge FC)