Pacific FC are moving on in the 2023 CPL Playoffs after Adonijah Reid provided a dramatic stoppage-time winner in their playoff-opening 1-0 victory over York United.
It was the first time the Tridents have won a postseason match at Starlight Stadium, while the Nine Stripes remain winless in their two playoff appearances. Pacific are now off to Halifax, where they will face the 3rd-place Wanderers on Saturday, October 14.
The Nine Stripes got off to an energetic start, putting the pressure on the hosts from the opening whistle. In this sixth minute, York came close to opening the scoring as some lovely combination play between Clément Bayiha and Osaze De Rosario saw the latter played find himself all alone in front. However, De Rosario scuffed his chipped effort in front of Emil Gazdov, and despite arching the ball over the Pacific keeper, the chance was cleared off the line by Tridents defender Georges Mukumbilwa.
Pacific went one further and put the ball into the back of the net in the 17th minute after a lovely set-piece routine was tapped home by Thomas Meilleur-Giguère, only to be denied by the offside flag. The Tridents seemed to wake up after that, finding some dangerous moments in transition and through Amer Didić’s aerial prowess on set pieces.
They were guilty of allowing York too much time and space at the top of their own box, however, and nearly paid for it in the 28th minute as Brem Soumaoro’s thunderous strike from distance rattled the crossbar behind Gazdov but stayed out of the net. Mo Babouli then came close from a curling free-kick effort in the 41st minute that sailed just over the bar. It was the seventh shot for York United during a quality first half from the visitors, albeit one that would see them go into the break tied 0-0.
It took Pacific 51 minutes to register their first shot on target of the match, as Manny Aparicio forced a good save from Niko Giantsopoulos, who tipped the ball over the bar and out for a corner kick early in the second half. Pacific captain Josh Heard then forced another stop from the York keeper in the 59th minute with a curling effort to the back post.
Giantsopoulos saved his best for the ensuing corner kick, however, with an unbelievable goalline stop on a header from Meilleur-Giguère as he got his hand to the ball right on the goalline and deflected it off his own woodwork and out. Easton Ongaro was unable to redirect the rebound goalward.
With both sides tiring toward the end of the second half, multiple chances came from poor turnovers. Babouli was the only player who was able to turn such an opportunity into a chance, however, as his 70th-minute strike was well dealt with by Gazdov. The sides were far more cagey after that, however,
In stoppage time, however, the Tridents finally broke the deadlock as a pair of second-half substitutes combined for the winner. Kekuta Manneh sent a lovely cross into the six-yard box that Reid brilliantly took down with a flying foot and nudged into the York net.
On what was the final kick of the match, York United looked like they had found an unbelievable equalizer as Paris Gee put a bicycle kick past Gazdov. But the goal was ruled offside, and the final whistle followed ending the Nine Stripes season.
90 + 1′ — Adonijah Reid
39′ — Yellow: Sean Young (Pacific FC) 67′ — Yellow: Max Ferrari (York United) 88′ — Yellow: Kadin Martin-Pereux (York United)