CALGARY — An own goal in the 15th minute of extra time charged to Calvary FC goaltender Marco Carducci was the difference Saturday as Pacific FC advanced to the Canadian Premier League final with a 2-1 victory.
Getting to the ball just before it crossed the goal line, second-half substitute Kunle Dada-Luke powered a centring pass at Carducci stationed next to the post as the goaltender put his arm up to call for a goal kick.
The ball squeezed between the keeper’s legs and dribbled into the net.
As Cavalry players and the crowd of 2,927 at Calgary’s ATCO Field protested the lack of a whistle for what they believed was a ball out of touch, Pacific celebrated the strike that sent the Vancouver Island club to the CPL final for the first time.
Pacific meets the winner of Sunday’s semifinal between top-seeded Forge FC and fourth-seed York United FC.
Hamilton’s Forge is the reigning league champions having won the CPL’s first two titles.
Trailing 1-0 at halftime, Cavalry equalized two minutes into the second half.
Off a corner kick from midfielder Ben Fisk, six-foot-two defender Karifa Yao drove a header into the top right corner beyond the outstretched arms of goaltender Callum Irving.
It was just the second goal of the season for Yao.
Calgary’s best chance to take the lead came in the 60th minute on a similar-looking play from the same corner, again with Fisk sending a dangerous ball into the penalty box.
Daan Klomp’s header sailed over the net, however. Eighteen minutes later, Cavalry leading scorer Joe Mason put a header over the bar.
After a relatively tame first half, tempers fired in the second when Pacific forward Josh Heard trampled Sergio Camargo and sent the Cavalry midfielder flying.
That ignited a short melee near the sidelines in which Cavalry coach Tommy Wheeldon Jr. and Pacific coach Pa-Modou Kah were also seen yelling.
Heard received a yellow card for the foul. The only other card issued was a yellow to Cavalry’s Jose Escalante.
Calgary dominated possession in the first half, but the chances were fairly even and Pacific authored the only goal.
On a perfectly executed sequence from the right wing in the 33rd minute, Heard swung a high, deep ball into the middle where Manuel Aparicio’s header allowed Terran Campbell to fire into an open net.
Campbell nearly scored earlier, sending a left-footed shot hard off the far post in the game’s opening minute.
Cavalry and Pacific met for the eighth time this season. Cavalry took the season series 3-2-1 with an unbeaten 2-0-1 record at home.
But in two of the biggest games, both at ATCO Field, Cavalry lost both.
Pacific blanked Calgary 1-0 in a Canadian championship quarterfinal in September.
Notes: The match was held under sunny skies and temperature was 6 C at game time. … Injured and unavailable for Cavalry were midfielders Nik Ledgerwood and Elliot Simmons. … Pacific was minus midfielder Marcos Bustos due to injury while defender Lukas MacNaughton served the second game of a two-game suspension.