A special match was settled with a goal from a special player.
Saturday in Langford, Manny Aparicio secured the three points for Pacific FC in their home opener against expansion side Vancouver FC with a half-volleyed strike from outside the area which will live long in CPL history.
The newest rivalry in the Canadian Premier League saw the only win on opening day of the CPL season, after Atletíco Ottawa drew 1-1 against Halifax Wanderers, and Forge drew 2-2 with Cavalry earlier in the day.
There was plenty of excitement and anticipation for this match, especially with so little known of what threat Vancouver FC would bring under head coach Afshin Ghotbi. Pacific dominated the early possession and discovered Vancouver FC would set up in a well-structured 4-3-3 formation which changed to more of a 4-5-1 out of possession at first. Despite this early dominance in possession for Pacific FC, it was Vancouver FC who got the first shot away after five minutes where Shaan Handal headed past Emil Gazdov in the Pacific FC goal but saw his goal chalked off for offside. A let off for the hosts and a reminder that they needed to be switched on and aware that this Vancouver FC side carried a threat in the final third.
On 22 minutes, Pacific FC had the next best chance of the game as a Bradley Vliet corner was smashed against the Vancouver FC cross bar by a header from central defender Emir Didic, Cedric Toussaint then scuffs the rebound over the bar. Pacific showed how effective their press can be in the 25th minute, pouncing on some miscontrol in the middle and setting up a 3v2 attack where Easton Ongaro somehow got his foot under the ball too much and blasted over from only 6 yards out. The majority of chances in the first half went the way of Pacific, a number of opportunities in build up from wide areas, as well as the dangerous long throw from Bradley Vliet on the left. As the first half ended, Pacific would go into the break having the better of the chances and Gazdov in their goal not having to face a single shot on target other than the disallowed goal.
Callum Irving produced one of the saves of the weekend early in the second half as Pacific come out on the front foot once again. Josh Heard capitalised on an unfortunate ricochet for the Vancouver defence and had a clear shot at goal from about eight yards out but his volley was charged down and fabulously saved by his former teammate Irving. A great save from Gazdov followed from a Vancouver free kick, along with some pushing and shoving as the derby began to boil as it became evident of the rivalry building early on in this BC match up.
The game settling goal came with the game ticking into the final 10 minutes. Vancouver had held on well and grown into the game more offensively during periods of the second half, but it was the home side who got the decisive goal. As Vancouver tried to build out from the back, the impressive Sean Young won the ball back quickly on the edge of the Vancouver penalty area. He passed out with to captain Josh Heard who’s cross was cleared only as far as Aparicio who volleyed first time from the edge of the box to give the home side the lead and ran right to the away fans section to celebrate right in front of them.
Pacific FC fans celebrated wildly, Vancouver fans reacted angrily, and a new derby looked to have really kicked into life in its opening game.
It finished 1-0 and for all Pacific FC’s determination to dominate the game they only managed 53% of the possession in the season opener. The shooting was a little wayward for both sides, with Pacific managing three shots on target from fifteen shots and Vancouver hitting the target twice from seven shots.
James Merriman will be happy with the three points, but will also look for more from his players as the grow into the season. Several new faces have earned their first minutes for the club and relationships will form on the pitch with more time together. Looking at some of those new additions, Ongaro got opportunities, but you feel there is more to come from him. Gazdov wasn’t tested too much but dealt with what he had to, and it will be a confidence boosting clean sheet for the young goalkeeper. Vliet also stood out with his pace, combative defending, as well as set piece delivery, and he looks to be a very useful signing for Pacific FC.
On the other side, Afshin Ghotbi will be happy to see how his side were organised defensively. Building more clinical attacking phases of play will be worked upon as they showed periods of decent transitional attacks, and some good possession which just didn’t quite manage to click in the final third. From this opening game, Vancouver FC looks to have been building a strong group who are working hard with a clear identity, so they could be a difficult team to face in their debut season in the Canadian Premier League.
(Image Credit: Vancouver FC)