Hamilton Forge FC players celebrate their win over CD Olimpia's during Scotiabank CONCACAF League 2019 action in Hamilton on Thursday, August 22, 2019. Canadian Premier League champion Forge FC continues its CONCACAF League campaign with a round-of-16 matchup with Panama's Tauro FC. The Hamilton club has been in Central America since dispatching El Salvador's CD Municipal Limeno on Oct. 22. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Peter Power

Forge FC converts late penalty to beat Panama’s Tauro FC in CONCACAF League play

Forge FC converts late penalty to beat Panama’s Tauro FC in CONCACAF League play

PANAMA CITY — Daniel Krutzen scored on a stoppage-time penalty Tuesday to give Forge FC a 2-1 win over Panama’s Tauro FC, moving the CPL champions into the CONCACAF League quarterfinals.

Substitute Anthony Novak earned the penalty when he was taken down by substitute goalkeeper Jorginho Frias after beating a defender on the edge of the box. Frias, 19, came into the game in first-half injury time after Luis Hurtado, who had been favouring his right leg, was stretchered off.

Mo Babouli gave Forge an early lead before Tauro’s Edwin Aguilar equalized in the 18th minute in an entertaining game in an empty Estadio Rommel Fernandez.

Tauro came close to ending it in the 87th minute when a ferocious cross went through a crowd before going wide.

Forge plays the winner of Thursday’s match between Jamaica’s Waterhouse FC and Haiti’s Arcahaie in the quarterfinals. Arcahaie advanced when Belize’s Verdes FC pulled out of their preliminary-round match due to positive COVID-19 tests,

The 22-team CONCACAF League is a feeder tournament, sending six clubs to the 2021 Scotiabank CONCACAF Champions League.

The four quarterfinal winners will qualify directly for the 2021 CONCACAF Champions League. The four losing quarterfinalists will compete in single-leg play-in games, with the two winners moving on.

Forge will also have a chance to qualify for the main CONCACAF club competition when it takes on Toronto FC in the as-yet-unscheduled final of the Canadian Championship.

Forge exited the CONCACAF League in the round of 16 last year, beaten 4-2 on aggregate by Honduras’ Olimpia. The Hamilton side had dispatched Guatemala’s Antigua GFC 2-1 in the preliminary round.

Forge threatened early Tuesday and went ahead in the 11th minute after Alexander Achinioti-Jonsson stole the ball off a Tauro player and fed David Choiniere speeding down the right flank. Choiniere beat his marker and sent in a low cross that bounced off defender Omar Negrete to Babouli, who poked it in with his right foot with Hurtado out of position.

Tauro responded seven minutes later with a rapid-fire counter-attack after a Kyle Bekker giveaway. Diego Valanta’s looping long ball found Aguilar behind the Forge defence and the Tauro captain, after controlling the ball with his head, hammered a venomous right-footed shot past Triston Henry. Veteran defender David Edgar appeared to lose his footing as the 25-year-old Aguilar went past him.

It was Aguilar’s sixth goal in seven CONCACAF League matches.

Coach Bobby Smyrniotis made two changes to the team that beat El Salvador’s CD Municipal Limeno 2-1 in preliminary-round play on Oct. 22. Fullback Kwame Awuah, back from suspension, came in for the suspended Johnny Grant while Senegal midfielder Elimane Cisse came in for Belgian Paolo Sabak.

Forge came straight to Panama after the win in El Salvador. The Canadian team is slated to return home Wednesday.

Forge showed some some promising signs early with Cisse firing wide after some good work by Babouli and then Kadell Thomas slashing into the Tauro penalty box, only to to the ball go wide of the net.

Choiniere forced a save from Hurtado in the 34th minute after rounding a defender and firing a high shot on target. Forge came close in the 36th minute when Achinioti-Jonsson’s header off a corner hit the crossbar after the ball sailed over Hurtado.

Frias’s first task after coming on was to watch Krutzen’s free kick from just outside the penalty box hit the Tauro defensive wall of him.

A fine through ball by Babouli to Thomas resulted in the Rigoberto Nino foul that prompted the free kick.

Chris Nanco, back from injury, replaced Thomas at halftime.

An acrobatic Henry made a fine reflex save in the 51st minute to parry a header from Edgar, who was trying to divert a Tauro cross but instead sent the ball straight at his own goal.

Frias made terrific back-to-back saves from close range off Nanco in the 63rd minute after a dangerous cross from Awuah. Frias stopped Nanco’s header with his body and then got his hands to the rebound shot.

All rounds are being contested in single-match formats this year. The original plan was to go to two-legged ties from the quarterfinals on but COVID-related delays prompted CONCACAF to reduce the number of games.

Tauro was appearing in its third edition of the CONCACAF League after winning the 2020 Panama Apertura. It made the semifinals of the 2018 CONCACAF League, losing to FC Motagua of Honduras 3-2 on aggregate.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 3, 2020

The Canadian Press