Despite being completely dominated by Valour FC in the first half, two goals in two minutes after the break from Alejandro Diaz earned all three points for Pacific FC at IG Field on Saturday.
Both sides spent the early minutes of the match just getting a feel for each other, and trying to work their way into the match a bit. Valour were the ones with the first few chances, with Sean Rea firing a free kick into the wall and hitting a shot just wide of the post with a follow up effort.
Kevin Rendon also had a shot miss the target, while Daniel Ascanio played in a shot that Emil Gazdov, making his professional debut in the Pacific FC net, was forced to deal with, which the teenager did comfortably.
After continuing to knock on the door, Valour finally took the lead in the 23rd minute. A shot from Ascanio was stopped by Gazdov, but the rebound popped up into the air. De Brienne was in the right place at the right time, heading the ball home to give his team a 1-0 advantage, before wheeling away in celebration and doing a frontflip.
The home side continued to be the better side in the opening 45 minutes, and would outshoot The Tridents 12-1 by halftime.
Andy Baquero also tested Gazdov with an attempt from distance. After the Pacific goalkeeper made a save from a free kick, Baquero received the ball about 15 yards outside the penalty area and let it fly with a well-struck effort. Gazdov made a great save, diving to his left to parry the ball away for a corner.
Pacific had more possession in the first half just edging out Valour 51 percent to 49, but didn’t do anything with it. They only registered a single shot in the first half, one that was blocked three minutes into stoppage time, and never really looked like threatening the Valour backline until a couple of corners at the end of the half that didn’t amount to much.
After dominant first half performance, Valour took a deserved 1-0 lead into the break.
Things got interesting around the hour mark, when the right winger Ascanio was sent off. Already on a yellow card for a poor challenge on Gianni Dos Santos in the first half, Ascanio was shown his marching orders by referee David Barrie after what he judged to be a dive in the penalty area.
The Colombian attacker drove toward the Pacific goal, and fell over easily when there was seemingly no contact, or at the best very little. Barrie was having none of it, and raised a second yellow card into the Winnipeg sky, followed by a red.
That totally changed the match, as Pacific responded with two very quick goals not long after. Alejandro Diaz, the CPL’s Golden Boot winner, scored Pacific’s first goal of the match in the 71st minute, beating Jonathan Sirois with a perfect glancing header after a cross into the box from Marco Bustos.
Valour were left deflated, and after failing to dig in and start working toward re-taking the lead, would concede again moments later, again scored by the Mexican striker. After the ball was wrestled away from Diego Gutierrez in midfield, Kamron Habibullah was twisting and turning to try and find a lane for himself to shoot.
Habibullah played a hard ball along the ground in the box, which found its way to the feet of Diaz, who made no mistake. It was Diaz’s 13th goal of the season, extending his league-high tally, and putting him one back of the league’s single-season record with 10 matches still to play in the regular season.
Valour substitute Alessandro Riggi had a chance to tie things up for Valour in the 84th minute, but a fine stop from the teenager Gazdov kept the ball out. Riggi took fantastic touch on a pass into his path, before trying to poke his shot under the rushing Pacific netminder, but the 18-year-old was able to get his body in front of it.
That would be the closest Valour would come to scoring again. Despite seven minutes of added time in which they pushed hard to make something happen, they weren’t able to find the back of the net, and Pacific held on for a 2-1 victory.
With the win, The Tridents momentarily climb back to the top of the table, four points up on Cavalry — who play later in the day — and three up on Forge and Atletico Ottawa, who play each other on Sunday.
23′ — Matteo de Brienne (Valour FC)
71′ — Alejandro Diaz (Pacific FC)
73′ — Alejandro Diaz (Pacific FC)
8′ — Yellow: Georges Mukumbilwa (Pacific FC)
33′ — Yellow: Daniel Ascanio (Valour FC)
62′ — Red: Daniel Ascanio (Valour FC) — second yellow card
80′ — Yellow: Djenairo Daniels (Pacific FC)