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CPL's Forge FC upsets CF Montreal, advances to Canadian Championship semifinal

CF Montreal midfielder Rida Zouhir (18) advances the ball against Forge FC midfielder Kyle Bekker (10) during first half Canadian Championship quarterfinal soccer action in Montreal, Wednesday, May 22, 2024. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Christinne Muschi) CF Montreal midfielder Rida Zouhir (18) advances the ball against Forge FC midfielder Kyle Bekker (10) during first half Canadian Championship quarterfinal soccer action in Montreal, Wednesday, May 22, 2024. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Christinne Muschi)
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Forge FC secured a historic 2-1 victory over CF Montreal at Stade Saputo on Wednesday evening to book their ticket to the Canadian Championship semifinal.

Daniel Parra and Kwasi Poku scored in the first half for the Canadian Premier League's Forge, which upset the Major League Soccer side with a 3-2 victory in the two-leg quarterfinal on aggregate.

Victor Wanyama replied for Montreal, which is winless in eight games in all competitions.

Forge won after being eliminated by Montreal in the three previous years of the tournament.

They'll face Toronto FC, the Vancouver Whitecaps or the winners of a matchup between Pacific FC and Atletico Ottawa in the semifinals.

“We did a good job reading the opponent in the beginning of the game and we’ve got excellent players in our squad, then it comes down to execution," Forge head coach Bobby Smyrniotis said. "In that first half, our guys came out and did it perfectly. A few of them have gotten away from us in the past, especially here, so it’s great to get this result."

Forge and Montreal drew 1-1 during the first leg in Hamilton, meaning Forge technically trailed on away goals entering Wednesday's matchup.

The CPL side started the night on the front foot and scored the opening goal in the 14th minute.

Parra found space in the penalty area and fired a shot that was mishandled by Montreal keeper Sebastian Breza, giving Forge a 2-1 aggregate lead.

Just 10 minutes later, Forge added a second goal with a direct ball that sent Poku through on net.

He made no mistake and put Montreal on the ropes with the home side needing three goals from that point on to advance.

“I can’t explain (this performance). I’m ashamed,” Montreal head coach Laurent Courtois said. “I’m having a tough time justifying such a lethargic first half. We are ambitious and we have to match these ambitions with actions, but I haven’t seen that and it’s disappointing.”

Montreal took control of the game as Forge dropped into a low block to defend their lead but could not find a way through before halftime.

The game was delayed two hours at halftime due to lightning on a stormy night in Montreal.

Montreal used the extended break to regroup mentally before coming out and dominating the play in the second half.

“We’ve been through a couple of years ago in CONCACAF (Champions League) and I think the tough thing is you go into that second part is two teams need something very different,” Smyrniotis said. “It always favours the team that needs more and that was Montreal so sometimes that can be a problem. We defended a lot more than we wanted, but we talked about it during the break and try and make everyone aware of that situation.”

The hosts pressed high up the pitch and pulled one back as Wanyama got on the end of a corner kick in the 66th minute to give the fans some hope.

Instead of allowing the floodgates to open, Forge successfully mitigated any other threats.

Narrowly missed chances and several excellent saves from Forge keeper Christopher Kolango helped quash any chance at a miracle comeback for Montreal.

“It’s a mental game and even when we conceded, we spoke on the field to calm everyone’s head and it went well after that,” said Forge defender Garven Metusala, who grew up in Montreal’s academy. “(It) shows the quality we have in this team and in this league. We know we have a lot of guys that can play at this level and it’s always satisfying to prove that on the pitch.”

-- This report by The Canadian Press was first published in French on May 23, 2024.

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