Defending Canadian Premier League champion Hamilton-based Forge qualifies to face Panama’s CD Plaza Amador or Costa Rica’s Santos in the quarter-finals. The two Central American teams meet in Panama City on Wednesday with Santos holding a 1-0 lead in the round of 16 series.
Forge improved to 6-3-3 in CONCACAF League career.
Forge took the lead on Tuesday from a corner from Bekker. The Forge captain found an unmarked Alexander Achinioti-Jonsson at the back post and the six-foot-two Swede drove him back to the goal where Babouli, biting past an Independiente defender, steered him past Samudio.
There was blood in the game with the Forge players upset with the Independiente players’ play. Forge was reduced to 10 men when Babouli was sent off after an incident with Abdiel Macea on the eve of halftime.
Macea opposed a challenge from Babouli and bumped into the Forge player’s face. Babouli pushed Macea away, making little contact, but officials saw an elbow as Macea fell dramatically and Costa Rican referee Keylor Herrera ultimately produced the red card.
The ejection seemed unwarranted with a shocked Babouli who finally left the pitch.
Bekker made it 2-0 in the 54th, beating Cesar Samudio under the crossbar with a magnificent free kick just outside the penalty area.
Forge, currently third in the CPL with 10-7-1, sent out former Independiente striker Omar Browne in the 63rd minute. Browne came off the bench to score the game-winning goal in the 80th minute on his Forge debut on Saturday, helping Hamilton’s side win 2-1 against league-leading Pacific FC.
The second half essentially saw Forge in full defensive mode after leading 2-0. Needing three goals to advance, Independiente started it all in attack.
Independiente tied 0-0 with Alianza on Saturday, rotating their roster to rest. The Panamanian team fielded the same formation as the first leg.
There were signs of danger for Forge in the third minute on Tuesday when Guido Rouse’s header, on a handsome cross from Alexis Palacio, beat Triston Henry to hit the goal post.
Independiente hit the post again in the ninth minute, this time with a free kick from Rafael Aguila. Rouse pushed the rebound but the goal was scored offside.
Forge coach Bobby Smyrniotis reorganized his troops at half-time after the red card, sending Joshua Navarro in place of David Choinière.
Henry was called up early in the second half, diving to repel a deflected shot. Achinioti-Jonsson then cleared a high ball as Independiente approached a free kick in the 50th.
Forge was deprived of star attacking midfielder Tristan Borges, suspended for accumulating yellow cards. Babouli came for Borges with Emery Welshman replacing Woobens Pacius.
The CPL team has been the tournament’s road warrior, with pandemic-related travel restrictions forcing them on the road for the past 18 months. He has only played three of the 12 home games in the competition, the rest in El Salvador, Honduras, Panama and the Dominican Republic.
Independiente, whose full name is Club Atletico Independiente de La Chorrera, eliminated Toronto FC from the 2019 Champions League with an aggregate triumph of 5-1 in the round of 16.
Independiente secured a pass to the round of 16 this year after qualifying as the 2020 Clausura champions with the best overall record in Panamanian football.
Forge beat CD FAS El Salvador 5-3 overall in the preliminary round last month, with both matches being played in San Salvador.
The Hamilton team also reached the quarter-finals of the CONCACAF League last year, beaten by Arcahaie FC of Haiti in a penalty shootout. He then lost 1-0 to CD Marathon Honduras in a play-off, which represented a last chance to qualify for the Champions League.
In 2019, Forge lost to Olimpia of Honduras in the round of 16.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published on September 28, 2021
The Canadian Press