HAMILTON — Omar Browne and Mo Babouli scored wonder goals for Forge FC against Costa Rica’s Santos de Guapiles on Tuesday, helping the CPL champion to a 3-0 win on the night and a 4-3 comeback aggregate victory in their Scotiabank CONCACAF League quarterfinal.
The Hamilton side came into the match in arrears after losing the opening leg 3-1 on Oct. 20.
But the two spectacular strikes tied it on aggregate, with Forge holding the edge on the way goals rule thanks to captain Kyle Bekker’s goal in San Jose, Costa Rica.
Josh Navarro’s 82nd-minute goal made the comeback complete.
By reaching the semifinals, Forge becomes the first CPL team to qualify for the CONCACAF Champions League, which is the flagship club competition in North and Central America and the Caribbean.
The CONCACAF League is a 22-team feeder tournament that sends six sides to the Champions League — the four semifinalists along with the two best losing quarterfinalists.
Forge will play either FC Motagua or CD Marathon in a semifinal. Motagua took a 2-0 lead into its home game against Marathon later Tuesday in an all-Honduran quarterfinal.
Tuesday’s win was two years to the day that Forge won the inaugural CPL championship, defeating Cavalry FC 1-0 for a 2-0 aggregate victory and the North Star Shield trophy.
The victory also helped ease the pain of last week’s Canadian Championship semifinal loss to CF Montreal in an 11-round penalty shootout.
Browne cut into the Santos’ aggregate lead in the 29th minute, scoring on a highlight-reel rocket from well outside the penalty box — a left-footed shot that hit the underside of the crossbar and slammed down into the goal.
Babouli played provider with a ball from the left flank which Emery Welshman let go through his legs to get to Browne. The Panamanian forward then hammered it home.
Babouli tied the game on aggregate in the 65th minute with another spectacular strike. He volleyed home a Browne cross that bypassed a half-dozen Santos defenders.
Navarro, a Costa Rican midfielder, added the insurance goal from in-close after Welshman fought off defender Pablo Arboine at the by-line to deliver a cross.
Forge (14-8-2) is currently second to Pacific FC (13-8-6) in the CPL standings. Santos (8-5-6) is third in Liga FPD, the Costa Rican top league.
The temperatures was five degrees Celsius at kickoff with an announced crowd of 4,162 at Tim Hortons Field.
Forge started brightly and Tristan Borges came close in the 11th minute, sending a diagonal left-footed shot just wide of the far post.
Santos was lucky to escape in the 16th minute when goalkeeper Kevin Ruiz couldn’t hang on to a low Borges cross, allowing Elimane Cisse and Welshman to take close-range shots that did not make their way through a crowd of bodies.
Borges fired just high in the 20th minute after a nice interplay between Kwame Awuah and Browne down the left flank. Santos strung 10 men behind the ball as Forge kept probing the visitors’ defence.
Trailing 1-0, Santos had a rare chance in the 33rd but Cisse got a foot to Javon East’s shot.
Santos forward Brayan Lopez was taken off the field on a stretcher in the 41st minute after he was taken down by Alexander Achinioti-Jonsson, who was booked for the challenge. Once removed from the field, Lopez needed help as he limped to the locker room.
Forge had 68 per cent of the possession in the first half as well as a 6-1 edge in both shots and corners.
Santos showed more life to start the second half and Luis Paradela shot just wide in the 50th minute after a Forge defensive miscue.
After going down 2-0, Santos showed there was still some sting in its tail with a sliding Paradela sending his shot high.
East, Lopez and Christopher Meneses scored for Santos in the first leg.
On Wednesday, Costa Rica’s Deportivo Saprissa takes a 4-3 lead into the second leg of its quarterfinal at Guatemala’s Comunicaciones FC.
Guatemala’s Club Deportivo Guastatoya has already advanced to the semifinals after Suriname’s Inter Moengotapoe and Honduras’ CD Olimpia were booted from the competition midway through their round-of-16 tie for what CONCACAF called “serious breaches of integrity rules.”
Tuesday’s game was Forge’s sixth in 18 days, a stretch that has already included three matches in the CPL, the CONCACAF League quarterfinal first leg and the Canadian Championship semifinal.
Coach Bobby Smyrniotis made one change to his starting lineup with Garven-Michee Metusala coming in for the suspended defender Dominic Samuel.
Forge advanced to the CONCACAF League final eight with a 2-0 aggregate victory over Panama’s Independiente. The teams tied 0-0 in Hamilton before Forge won 2-0 in Panama.
Forge defeated El Salvador’s CD FAS 5-3 on aggregate in the preliminary round, with both legs played in San Salvador.
Santos, runner-up in the 2017 tournament, downed Panama’s CD Plaza Amador 3-0 on aggregate in its round-of-16 series.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 2, 2021
The Canadian Press