Forge FC downs HFX Wanderers in Canadian Premier League championship game


CHARLOTTETOWN – Forge FC won the Canadian Premier League title for the second straight year Saturday, defeating HFX Wanderers FC 2-0 on second-half goals by Alexander Achinioti-Jonsson and Maxim Tissot in the Island Games final.

The breakthrough came in the 60th minute on the latest of a string of Forge corners. Goalkeeper Christian Oxner failed to deal with Kyle Bekker’s delivery to the far post and the ball went to Mo Babouli, who chipped it back to the other post where Achinioti-Jonsson headed it in.

Halifax will rue the Swedish midfielder’s goal, having had seven defenders in the six-yard box.

Substitute Tissot rubbed salt in the wound with a long-distance free-kick that was fumbled by Oxner in the 90th minute.

In addition to hoisting the North Star Trophy, Hamilton’s Forge earned a berth in the 2021 CONCACAF League – a feeder competition to the CONCACAF Champions League – and will meet Toronto FC in the Canadian Championship final, with the victor there earning a berth in the 2021 CONCACAF Champions League.

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Time and location of the Canadian Championship final has yet to be announced.

Eight teams started the Island Games, an abridged 35-match, 38-day season played in a P.E.I. bubble due to the global pandemic.

Forge went 6-1-4 through the tournament, with its lone loss coming 3-2 to Toronto’s York 9 FC on Aug. 26. Saturday’s win extended its unbeaten run in the bubble to six games (4-0-2).

HFX went 4-3-4, with earlier losses of 2-1 to Calgary’s Cavalry FC on Aug. 23 and 5-0 to Pacific FC of Langford, B.C. The loss to Pacific came Tuesday in a meaningless game with a reserve lineup after the Halifax team had already qualified for the championship game.

The two finalists tied 1-1 twice during the tournament – Aug. 19 in the first stage and Sept. 9 in the group stage.

Both teams survived some sloppy play in the early going on a gusty day at the UPEI Artificial Turf Field. Babouli, the beneficiary of a Halifax giveaway, was on target in the sixth minute but his weak shot did not trouble Oxner.

HFX had more of the ball but failed to turn that into scoring chances.

That changed late in the 40th minute when Alessandro Riggi’s shot deflected off Forge defender David Edgar’s arm to teammate Akeem Garcia but the Trinidad & Tobago international’s lunging shot from close range was stopped by goalkeeper Triston Henry.

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Each team had just one shot on goal in the first half.

HFX winger Johnny Grant had a chance in the 46th minute but was unable to control a fierce cross.

Forge began to turn the screw with HFX having to defend four straight corners some 10 minutes into the second half.

Oxner came up big in the 73rd minute, denying David Choiniere from in-close after another HFX turnover. Babouli turned heads six minutes later, beating three defenders before Oxner stopped him.

HFX, led by former Canada and Trinidad & Tobago national team coach Stephen Hart, came into the season with just seven returning players after finishing bottom of the table in 2019 with a 6-12-10 overall record over the spring and fall seasons.

In contrast, Forge had 17 returning players and the Canadian league’s inaugural season title. Coach Bobby Smyrniotis used his entire roster at the Island Games with every player on the 22-man roster making at least one appearance. The Hamilton club came into the final with nine different players having scored.

Forge defeated Cavalry FC 2-0 on aggregate last year in the two-legged final.