Pacific FC are moving on to the CPL semifinal, after they defeated Halifax Wanderers FC 1-0 at the Wanderers Grounds on Saturday to win a second consecutive game in the 2023 playoffs.
Both managers offered strong lineups for the game, with Pacific making a few changes from Wednesday night’s win over York United. Late-game heroes Adonijah Reid and Kekuta Manneh joined the starting XI, with a pair of central strikers in Djenairo Daniels and Easton Ongaro in between them. Halifax, meanwhile, brought Zach Fernandez and Jake Ruby back into the wide defensive roles, as Tiago Coimbra got the nod up top.
From kickoff, the match had a playoff intensity, as the host Wanderers looked to possess the ball and find ways through Pacific’s midfield while the Tridents sought space on the counter.
Halifax generated a handful of good early chances in open play, with Lorenzo Callegari coming closest by stinging the palms of Emil Gazdov with a good shot from distance. Pacific, meanwhile, managed to earn several dangerous set-piece chances, though Halifax defended them well.
Not long before halftime, though, the tide shifted as a misplaced Wanderers pass through midfield sent the visitors on a counter-attack with a man advantage. Kekuta Manneh came flying down the left and broke into the box, playing it across goal where an attempted clearance wasn’t enough to evade danger and the ball trickled in off Halifax’s Zach Fernandez to make it 1-0 for Pacific.
After a handful of chances at either end in the opening minutes of the second half, Halifax boss Patrice Gheisar went to his bench in the 55th minute. Searching for a goal, he brought striker Jordan Perruzza and wingback Wesley Timoteo into the match in place of Callum Watson and Jake Ruby, moving Fernandez over to his more natural right fullback position.
James Merriman countered shortly by bolstering his midfield, adding Zakaria Bahous to the mix and taking off Daniels. Ayman Sellouf and Cédric Toussaint soon joined the mix for Pacific as well.
The stadium nearly exploded in the 70th minute, as a well-worked Halifax corner found the head of Tiago Coimbra, whose attempt rocked agonizingly off the crossbar.
Pacific soon had an incredible chance to make it 2-0 with 10 to play, as they worked it into the six-yard box where Toussaint had an open goal and seemed destined to score. Callegari, however, arrived just in time with a sliding block to keep Halifax in the game.
The woodwork soon denied Halifax yet again; Riley Ferrazzo lifted a cross in from the left that Gazdov tipped up off the crossbar just in time. Moments later, it was Gazdov again playing the hero with an excellent reaction stop on a point-blank shot.
Despite the litany of attempts the Wanderers threw at Pacific’s goal in the dying stages, they just could not find a way through as their season came to a heartbreaking end in Halifax.
After the final whistle, the two sides came together in one last moment of hostility, and from the fray both Halifax’s Doneil Henry and Pacific’s Kunle Dada-Luke were shown red cards. That’ll have a far greater impact on the Tridents, because Dada-Luke will now — as it stands — be suspended for their next playoff game.
With a second straight 1-0 win, though, Pacific nonetheless moved into next week’s semifinal, where they’ll play Forge FC for a place in the Final.
37’ — Zachary Fernandez (Halifax Wanderers) (Own Goal)
48’ — Yellow: Lorenzo Callegari (Halifax Wanderers)
50’ — Yellow: Easton Ongaro (Pacific FC)
80’ — Yellow: Kunle Dada-Luke (Pacific FC)
90+7′ — Yellow: Doneil Henry (Halifax Wanderers)
90+8′ — Yellow: Cédric Toussaint (Pacific FC)
90+9′ — Red: Kunle Dada-Luke (Pacific FC)
90+9′ — Red: Doneil Henry (Halifax Wanderers)