Victoria’s Pacific FC beats defending champ Forge FC in CPL final

Pacific FC teammates celebrate with the North Star Shield after defeating Forge FC by a score of 1-0 during Canadian Premier League championship game action at Tim Hortons Field in Hamilton, Ont., Sunday, Dec. 5, 2021. (NICK IWANYSHYN/THE CANADIAN PRESS)

HAMILTON — There’s a new Canadian Premier League champion.

Victoria’s Pacific FC knocked off defending champions Forge FC of Hamilton 1-0 in the CPL final Sunday for their first league title.

Alessandro Hojabrpour scored the game’s only goal in the 59th minute for the visitors on a chilly late afternoon at Tim Hortons Field.

The goal came off a set piece taken near the corner flag. Gianni Dos Santos sent the free kick into the box, and Hojabrpour made a darting run to the near post and headed the ball past goalkeeper Triston Henry into the top corner of the net.

The midfielder was an unlikely hero, having scored just twice in 26 appearances during the regular season. But his go-ahead header proved to be the difference.

Pacific came close to doubling their lead minutes later when Josh Heard’s shot from the edge of the penalty box ricocheted off the crossbar.

The breakthrough for the Victoria-based club came despite Forge seeing much more of the ball, especially in the first half. The home side had 73 per cent possession in the first 45 minutes, and 70 per cent overall.

But Forge could not do much with the ball, managing just two shots on target _ both from captain Kyle Bekker. Forge led 17-6 in total shots. Corner kicks were 10-2 in favour of Hamilton.

Pacific ‘keeper Callum Irving made the stops when needed to earn a two-save clean sheet. Henry conceded one goal on two shots.

Forge FC was forced to relinquish their hold on the North Star Shield _ the trophy awarded to the winner of the CPL playoffs _ after claiming the title in 2019 and 2020.

Pacific, which finished third in the regular season standings with a 13-9-6 record, reached the CPL final by defeating Cavalry FC 2-1 in the semifinal.

Hamilton’s Forge dispatched York United FC 3-1 in the other semifinal. Forge topped the regular season table with a 16-10-2 record.

The teams met three times during the regular season, with Forge winning all three.

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